Durham University in the northeast U.K. is offering to train college students to be sex workers through a sex work training course that all students and staff were made aware of via an email sent by the university.
The course is created by the Durham Students Union amid rising rates of Durham graduates involving themselves in prostitution and the production of explicit online content, the Independent reported.
Durham University said it launched the courses following requests “from a small number of concerned students” over a number of years, noting that engagement in sex work, which includes online activities, is happening within the higher education sector across the U.K.
An email advertising the course referred to it as a “training opportunity” and stated that student sex workers should not face any barriers to accessing support that is well informed and free from prejudice.
Jonah Graham, whose job title is “officer of welfare and liberation” at the Durham Students Union, said the target audience of the training was those who support students “so they understand the legal, safety, and wellbeing concerns of students and how to respond to disclosures sensitively.”
The “Level 1 training” for student sex workers was advertised as a one-hour meeting, and the “Level 2 training”, open to staff, would reportedly last 90 minutes.
The course offering comes after a 2020 poll of 3,200 British students, whose responses showed that 4 percent of those polled — almost one in 20 — said they were using sex work to fund their courses, while one in 10 said they would do it in a “cash emergency.”
Durham University defended the sex work training sessions, saying it had noted an emerging trend of students selling sexual services. The work training is meant to “ensure students can be safe and make informed choices,” the university said.
“We are emphatically not seeking to encourage sex work, but we are seeking to provide support to our students. We make no apologies for working to ensure that Durham is a safe environment for all our students and staff,” a Durham University spokesman said.
Michelle Donelan, the U.K. Minister of State for Universities, criticized the university for “legitimizing a dangerous industry” and for a “gross breach of its duty to protect” its students.
“Any university that does this is seriously failing in its duty to protect students,“ Donelan said.
Durham University and the students union said they have received several complaints from students who said promoting the courses to students and staff was drawing attention to the fact that prostitution is available on campus.
“It could cause a real problem, making it part of university culture and making work in the sex industry a normalized activity,” a student told the Times.
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