Students who sell sex should be protected by their universities - in the same way as ethnic minorities, according to new research at Swansea University.
Young under-graduates who become call girls, glamour models and porn stars to pay for their studies should not be "discriminated against" by education chiefs.
The research claims students are being let-down by their universities who believe sex workers should be punished for "bringing their reputation into disrepute".
Universities have been called on to protect student prostitutes and lap-dancers who are concerned about "labour conditions, violence and secrecy".
Dr Tracey Sagar - who carried out research into the scale of the sex industry in British universities - says matters of reputation should not be given preference over the protection and wellbeing of students who work in the industry.
Researchers at Swansea University have found that as many as 1 in 20 students work in the sex industry - including men working as naked butlers.
The student sex work project found that young men and women struggle to find other jobs which are "sufficiently lucrative and flexible" to support them while at university.
It was also revealed that universities have "poor awareness" of the issues surrounding sex work with no policies in place to protect students.
Project leader Dr Sagar added: "Judging a student who for whatever reason works in the sex industry is archaic.
"We believe that a disclosure of sex work should not automatically give rise to social disapproval or be presumed to negatively impact on a profession."
Academics called for universities to improve training to ensure an "individualised approach" to student sex workers which better protects their confidentially.
They also said that enquiring about student sex work should be banned under harassment and bullying policies as it may lead to stigmatisation.
The findings of the study have now been published in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management.