The decision to allow the Sex Workers Outreach Project Sussex (Swop) to attend events in the city and at the universitys Eastborne campus on Tuesday and Thursday was described as beyond disgraceful and criticised online.
Swop, which also said it attended the University of Sussexs life and wellbeing fair on Wednesday, defended its actions.
On Sunday, a University of Brighton spokesman said it would be launching an investigation and does not promote sex work to its students.
The Swop stalls offered condoms and leaflets as well as inviting visitors to come and play on a wheel of sexual wellbeing. The group is part of the Brighton Oasis Project charity and describes itself as a discreet and confidential service for women in the sex industry who live or work in Sussex.
1 in 6 students does sex work or thinks about turning to sex work. We can help. #sexwork #brightonfreshersfair #BSUFreshers #sexualhealth
Come and see SWOP today at @SussexUni Brighton Life and Wellbeing Fair. If youre topping up your fees with sex work, or struggling to balance work and studies, or want to talk and dont know where to go… were here for you. We respect your autonomy, privacy and confidentiality pic.twitter.com/iNgBQAT9zY
Among critics of the idea was feminist campaigner and writer Julie Bindel, the co-founder of the law reform group Justice for Women.
She said: This is beyond disgraceful. It makes me so angry that the sex trades become normalised and pimped to women as though it is a harmless and respectable way to earn a living. There should be an enquiry by the university into this.
Swop defended its position, and said it had never idealised sex work: However, we understand why students may turn to sex work, and navigating the legal precariousness as well as potential danger mean that students are extra vulnerable and we will help.
It said it was not encouraging or suggesting that students become sex workers but cited academic research about students in sex work and said Swop would offer support and advice without judgment.
Some academics and students have come to the defence of Swop. Alison Phipps, professor of gender studies at the University of Sussex, thanked the group for its great work; Dr Gemma Ahearne, a lecturer and sex industry researcher at Liverpool John Moores University, said Swops work was amazing.
Parker Robinson, student unions vice-president of academic experience at Brighton, said: It is great knowing there are services available ready to help students through difficulties they might be experiencing.
In a tweet he added: Obvi youre not suggesting people become sex workers, but rather youre supporting those who already are and get them into a safer place.
Tomi Ibukun, president of the students union which organised the event, told the Sunday Times: Swop was at our freshers fair event to raise awareness of the specialist support they provide should it ever be needed.
They were not there to advocate sex work as an option to our new students. It is unfortunate that some people have misinterpreted the attendance of Swop at our freshers fair.
In a statement the University of Brighton said: The freshers fair is an event organised by students for students and as such is managed by the students union.
The university is nevertheless exploring this matter further with the students union to allow us to gain a full understanding of the aims in inviting Swop to the event and to ensure due care is taken when presenting students with third-party information on highly sensitive and emotive issues.
A university is investigating after a sex workers support group ran a stall offering help for students at its freshers fairs.
The University of Brighton tried to distance itself from the decision by its students union to invite the Sex Workers Outreach Project Sussex (Swop) to the events last week. The projects stall offered condoms and leaflets, and invited visitors to come and play on a wheel of sexual wellbeing.
Swop describes itself as a discreet and confidential service for women in the sex industry. It promoted its presence at the fair on Twitter, saying: One in six students does sex work or thinks about turning to sex work. We can help.