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UK Students Turn To "Sugar Daddy" Apps

Photographed by Ben Rayner
There was a time when students took on menial jobs to have a bit of extra cash for university essentials such as textbooks and Papa John’s. But with some establishments now charging up to £9000 a year in tuition fees, it’s no wonder students are increasingly struggling to make ends meet. All of which might go some way to explain the rise in female students looking online for “sugar daddies”.

According to the BBC, SeekingArrangement, a leading app that hooks up “sugar babies” with older men willing to pay their bills, take them out to dinner, and give them a clothing allowance, has reported a 40% growth in young women joining, and the company claims to represent almost a quarter of a million UK students. While the 2015 figures shared are based on email address sign-ups, and users might not actually be active on the site, it is still a rather troubling statistic. Other reasons for the app’s soaring popularity has been put down to the sharp increase in student rents.
Top of the UK’s (rather less prestigious) league table is the University of Kent, who have 724 students using the app, while the most new sign-ups last year came from the University of Portsmouth.

And it might be part of a wider worrying trend. A 2015 study by the University of Swansea revealed that more than a fifth of students across the UK had thought about being involved in the sex industry, and 5% of them had already worked in that area, including stripping, phone sex chat, glamour modelling and prostitution.

The Daily Mail reached out to a number of SeekingArrangement users, all of who claimed they used the service after struggling to keep up with university work as well as their part-time jobs.

“I was working four days a week and going to university for five days. It was really hard,” Ali Mohamed, a 22-year-old London Metropolitan University PR and marketing student, told the Daily Mail. “I would have to run from lectures straight to work and it was just too much. I needed something easier but with similar pay.”

The 22-year-old now has "arrangements" with a 47-year-old man and a 32-year-old man. One gives her a monthly allowance of £800, while the other buys her items such as clothes, as and when. She claims to not have sex with the men, and instead provides companionship.

Angela Jacob Bermudo, European spokesperson for SeekingArrangement, insists it’s about more than just money.

“Most students hear about SeekingArrangement and this lifestyle from other students who have used it,” she told the Daily Mail. “Financial reasons aside, the society we live in has changed, and there is interest in alternative relationship models. Arrangements are a modern take on relationships with traditional values.”

SeekingArrangement was founded in 2006 by dating expert Brandon Wade and it has five million members worldwide.

Universities with most "sugar babies"

1. Kent - 724
2. Cambridge - 704
3. Nottingham - 671
4. Manchester - 562
5. St Andrews - 533
6. Westminster - 522
7. Bristol - 518
8. Glasgow Caledonian - 516
9. Leeds - 423
10. Exeter - 422