Students are funding their university studies by posting explicit pictures and videos to an online subscription service, a survey has found.
OnlyFans, a subscription-only social media platform which is used by sex workers, celebrities, musicians and comedians, allows “creators” to share pictures and videos with their subscribers.
Save the Student’s annual money survey found just over a fifth of students (22 per cent) had tried using OnlyFans while at university, while some four per cent of students had tried sex work.
The survey, which received 3,161 responses, found that some students had turned to sex work to pay for essentials or rent.
One student, who earns around £6,000 per month as a creator, recently completed a masters degree using funds generated by her OnlyFans account.
The 25-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous, started sex work while studying for her undergraduate degree, as her living costs were not fully covered by her student loan and part-time job selling mobiles phones.
“I did get commission, which was great, but it still was barely enough to cover what I needed,” she said.
“One of my friends at university told me that she was thinking about doing the webcam stuff, which put the idea in my head.
“I’d say I was only doing about eight hours a week but I was making about £560 on average, whereas with my part-time job I was working 12 hours a week and getting about £450 a month.”
In 2016, she started an OnlyFans account and clocked up 200 subscribers – all paying £4.99 a month – within a couple of days, by posting explicit content.
Now with just under 800 followers paying a monthly fee of £7.99, the 25-year-old used the account to fund her living costs while completing an International Business masters.
Currently working in a part-time job to boost her CV, the University of Derby student said she uses different names to prevent future employers finding her account.
Asked if she would quit OnlyFans for a full-time role in her chosen profession, she replied: “I’ve got accustomed to having that money, and the lifestyle that I’m now setting up for myself. I wouldn’t be able to stop.”
Another student, who also preferred to remain anonymous, was earning around £1,000 a month as an OnlyFans creator in her third year of university.
The 21-year-old Canterbury Christ Church University student received around £150 per week through her student loan and decided there was “no harm” in creating an OnlyFans account to boost her income.
“When I first started, it was not explicit content at first, it was literally just like lingerie stuff,” she said.
“But when I got with my partner we decided together that we would do explicit content, because it would make more money, basically.”
But the 21-year-old, who is hoping to study for a masters in occupational health, acknowledged that she may need to delete her account if she pursues a certain career.
“If I do my masters, there’s careers I could go into, and they’re quite respectable jobs,” she said.
“And I think my OnlyFans would have to be shut down, because I’d be working. But I do love doing it, you network with so many people.”
Of the 4 per cent of students doing sex work – which can refer to physical contact as well as that involving nudity or erotica – just under a third (32 per cent) have shared intimate photos, according to Save the Student.
Some 24 per cent have tried sugar dating, an arrangement where someone receives money or other financial benefits in exchange for companionship, while 17 per cent have used webcam sites and 12 per cent have tried phone sex.
The annual survey found that one in 10 said they would consider sex work in a cash emergency – up from 6 per cent the previous year.
Save the Student also found that the average UK student spends £795 per month, with 74 per cent of respondents relying on part-time work for money.
Additional reporting by the Press Association