PRESSURE is growing on Scotland’s universities to act over dating websites which match hard-up students with sugar daddies willing to pay their fees.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) will this week use their annual congress to call for a joint campaign to end what they call sexual exploitation by websites which connect female students with “benefactors”.
Earlier this year, the website SeekingArrangement claimed to be growing in popularity in Scotland, adding Edinburgh University to its “top 20 fastest growing sugar baby schools” in the UK. The website said there had been a 222 per cent increase in female student sign-ups from the university since April 2012.
A motion lodged by UCU members at Glasgow Caledonian University calls on the union to join with the National Union of Students (NUS) and university management to prevent students signing up to the website.
It states: “This US-based internet dating website claims to match attractive young women with wealthy, usually older men, and specifically targets university students by offering a free premium membership to users with a university e-mail address.
“According to the website, the average female university student using the website receives £5,000 per month from their ‘benefactors’ to ‘cover the cost of tuitionand living expenses’.
“Congress believes that arrangements such as this are an example of sexual exploitation of students, and asks the executive to approach NUS Scotland, the EIS [teaching union] and university management in order to further a joint campaign against the sexual exploitation of students.”
According to Seeking- Arrangement, around half of its two million members worldwide are students. The site named Glasgow Caledonian, Edinburgh and St Andrews among its top 10 UK universities for 2012, based on the number of new sign-ups.
Pamela Gillies, principal of Glasgow Caledonian (GCU), said: “We are aware of the motion being put forward at the UCU congress and have noted the concerns of our trade union colleagues.
“GCU has no connection to the company involved and no means of verifying the statistics quoted. As a university, we have absolutely no higher priority than the welfare of our students and we encourage anyone facing financial difficulties to seek advice from a GCU student funding adviser or to contact the GCU student association for assistance.”
A spokesman for St Andrews University added: “We found no evidence that the claims made by the company about the numbers of St Andrews students involved with this site were true.
“Sexual exploitation is inarguably a serious issue which should be of concern within the higher education sector, but we would suggest not in a way which gives more free publicity and attention to the online businesses seeking to profit from it.”
Brandon Wade, founder of SeekingArrangement, said: “We do not encourage students that fall below the legal age limit to join the website, nor do we target students.
“SeekingArrangement does not exploit students. Rather, the website empowers women to not settle for less than they deserve. A large percentage of university sugar babies are able to find good employment, gain valuable skill-sets from being in the company of professionals, and have had the privilege to experience a more lavish lifestyle with a sugar daddy.”