Police to investigate website trading university scholarships for sex

Site promised £15,000 towards university fees in return for ‘adventures’ with businessmen

Police are to examine evidence gathered during The Independent’s undercover investigation into a website which offered students up to £15,000 towards their university fees in return for having sex with strangers.

Officers will  seek to establish whether those behind the website could be investigated for a number of possible offences, including incitement into prostitution and sexual exploitation.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: “We will consider all the evidence passed to us and any allegations made.”

Groups which support women involved in prostitution yesterday praised The Independent’s investigation for exposing the pressures that can force vulnerable young people to sell their bodies.

The website for SponsorAScholar.co.uk has been suspended since The Independent published secret film of a man claiming to be an “assessor” seeking to persuade an undercover reporter posing as a student to undertake a “practical assessment”. In it he asks her to demonstrate the level of intimacy she was prepared to give in return for “sponsorship” to fund her studies.

SponsorAScholar.co.uk claimed to have arranged for 1,400 women aged between 17-24 to fund their studies by having “discreet adventures” with wealthy businessmen. It is not known how many women – if any – have ever been awarded “scholarships”. Nor is it known how many have ever gone through the “practical assessment”.

However, it emerged yesterday that a female escort called Kitty had been approached by a man claiming to be from the site seeking to attract new “scholars”.

Campaigners have highlighted the deep concern over the site and the effect of rising student fees. Dr Dan Boucher, director of parliamentary affairs for the international Christian charity Care, said young people should not have to subject themselves to exploitation in order to complete their studies. “The Independent’s investigation has revealed one particular and disturbing manifestation of sexual exploitation.

“With a background of an 8 per cent fall in applications to university this year and mounting concerns about debts, it is clear that sexual predators have seen an opportunity to exploit the financial vulnerability of struggling students,” he said.

Mark Wakeling, director of Beyond the Streets, said that sites such as SponsorAScholar.co.uk could give the impression that selling sex was a quick fix to make money.

“Businesses which profit from suggesting an easy income with little cost are acting irresponsibly and ignore the reality behind the vulnerability that prostitution often creates. Slick publications airbrush out the harm and promote an idea of there being little risk. Students need to be aware of the real dangers involved in such schemes and the longer-term impact,” he said.

Whilst it is illegal to run a website where men and women offer sex for money, many instead offer the services of models and escorts. Operators can only be arrested for controlling prostitution if police have evidence they knew sex is being provided for money.

If you have any information on SponsorAScholar.co.uk or believe you know the identity of the man pictured, please email investigations@independent.co.uk.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there