MORE than 4,000 hard-up Irish students have signed up to a 'sugar daddy' dating service to pay their way through college.
Some 4,464 female undergraduates here have joined SeekingArrangement.com, a US-based online-dating website, which pairs off young women with wealthy – and usually much older – international businessmen.
A survey conducted last year by the website found that approximately 80pc of all relationships conducted through the service involved sex.
New figures released by the online agency have shown a sharp increase in the number of so-called 'college sugar babies' in Ireland over the past year.
The statistics show that four of the top 10 colleges using the service are based in Dublin.
UCD tops the list, with 399 members, followed by Trinity College Dublin at 395.
Further analysis of the figures reveals that from the top 10 Irish 'sugar baby colleges', a further 749 new students joined the website last year alone.
Although critics have panned the website as a seedy playground for ageing adulterers, spokeswoman Angela Jacob insisted that it was creating relationships which are "mutually beneficial" and which give female students the financial means, often through a monthly allowance, to complete their college courses".
Ms Jacob said: "We've seen an increased interest from Ireland since the economy has been in recession.
"It's a lifeline for many students. It could mean the difference between them finishing college or being forced to drop out."
Overall, membership from Ireland is the seventh-largest in the world, behind the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, France and Germany.