The total number of prostitutes in the United Kingdom is not known and is difficult to assess, but authorities and NGOs estimated in 2009 that approximately 100,000 persons in the country were engaged in prostitution. According to data from the Office for National Statistics, prostitution contributed £5.3 billion to the UK economy in 2009.
According to a 2009 study by TAMPEP, of all prostitutes in the UK, 41% were foreigners — however in London this percentage was 80%. Migrant prostitutes came from: Central Europe 43%, Baltic 10%, Eastern Europe 7%, Balkans 4%, other EU countries 16%, Latin America 10%, Asia, 7%, Africa 2%, North America 1%. 35 different countries of origin were identified.
The report found 77 different ethnicities among the prostitutes, many from areas such as Eastern Europe and South-East Asia. The study has been called “the most comprehensive study ever conducted into UK brothels”.
There have been many studies investigating certain aspects of prostitution in the UK but virtually none have focused on university students probably because it was not seen as an issue worth investigating prior to 2009.
The abolition of mandatory grants in the 1990’s left many students having to take out long-term loans to meet their financial needs, leading in turn to increased debts. Tuition fees were then introduced across the United Kingdom in September 1998 under the Labour Government as a means of funding tuition to undergraduate and postgraduate certificate students at universities, with students being required to pay up to £1,000 a year for tuition.
The introduction of tuition fees exacerbated student hardship with evidence pointing to levels of soaring personal debt, and increases in the time expected to pay them off. A National Westminster Bank (2004) survey put the average total student debt in 2004 at £12,180, a rise of 50% over the previous year, with one-third of students believing it will take them 10 years to pay it off.