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I have worked for the past year as an intern in a company that is partly based in my university. I have been receiving a scholarship for my work.

We agreed on how much time I was going to spend at the company and how much money I would receive. My scholarship amount was determined by the time I agreed to work monthly, at least that was how it was explained to me.

During the interview for this position, we agreed that I would do my bachelor project here, which basically means I will do the research they need and then write my bachelor thesis about it. This is a win-win for everyone, because instead of working ON TOP of school, I would work for the company AND work on my degree at the same time. The company benefits from this because it allows me to spend more hours weekly working.

My work on the bachelor thesis is about to start, which means I will be able to spend about twice the amount of time in the office than before. My boss and coworkers expect me to be more often in the office.

I would like to get double the scholarship, but I heard from someone who was in the same position as me in the past that his scholarship did not increase and he was told that he would have to do the work for his bachelor project anyway, so even though he spent more time working, he received the same scholarship.

This is basically free work for the company. I don't like working for free. Is this normal? I will try negotiating, but what should I do if the boss doesn't change his view? One thing I was considering was that if they don't increase my scholarship, I would spend the same time in the office as before and do the rest of the work at home/elsewhere, which is more convenient for me.

Everything is already agreed, I can't change my bachelor project (do a different one, for a different company) without delaying my degree by at least half a year, so basically the company now holds my academic progress hostage, which from what I have heard is the situation of some PhD students.

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I don't think you have a lot of leverage here other than by disadvantaging yourself.

First, scholarship money is not always abundant and people like to spread it around to help more people, rather than to concentrate it.

And, you are getting something for your work, beyond the money. You are getting a degree. It isn't that they get your work for free. You made an agreement, I think, if I have a accurate reading here. Live up to it.

I think your statement that the company is holding you hostage is misplaced. In fact, they are helping enabling your future. Even just providing a project that you can develop into a thesis should be worth something to you.

I suspect that starting over with a different situation would be worse for you in every way: time, money, and more.

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  • During the interview, we have agreed that I would be spending X time in the office and get Y money and also that later I would be able to spend more than X time in the office when I would be doing my bachelor project there. We have not agreed on how much money would I be getting then, this negotiation is about to happen. – fblthp Feb 5 at 9:12
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Bottom line up front: I agree with Buffy. If you were my intern and sent me some version of the above question as an e-mail, I would probably not react well. Detailed reasoning below....

I don't like working for free.

As I understand it, you are perfectly willing to do a bunch of "free" work in exchange for a bachelor's thesis, and you're willing to do a some paid work at the agreed-upon rate. I'm not sure why combining these two separate projects into one big project changes anything. The work required and outputs earned are the same.

This is basically free work for the company.

I seriously doubt it. As one data point, I can usually do things at least 100x faster than my interns (literally). In fact, with the time I spend explaining things, answering questions, and providing mentorship, I would probably save time by doing the intern's project myself. One of the only reasons we bother with having interns is because we hope to recruit them after graduation. This may or may not be true in your case, but it's probably why the company does not see this as exploitative.

During the interview for this position, we have agreed that I would do my bachelor project here....Everything is already agreed

If you had agreed to do the paid work and then the situation changed, that would be one thing. But you already agreed to do this; nothing has changed. In this case, trying to renegotiate a contract would be inappropriate. That said, it's true that your negotiation was a year ago, this gives you a little leeway.

which basically means, I will do the research they need and then write my bachelor thesis about it...the company benefits from this because it allows me to spend more hours weekly working.

It sounds like a big chunk of the "extra" hours (maybe not all of them) is writing up your results for your university's thesis. Certainly it is not reasonable to expect the company to pay you to write this thesis.

One thing I was considering...I would spend the same time in the office as before and do the rest of the work at home/elsewhere, which is more convenient for me.

I'm not clear on whether you negotiated hours when you started. If you've already agreed to a particular schedule, you should keep it. Perhaps at the end, you'll be able to ask for some work-at-home days when you are focusing on the university thesis document. If you did already negotiate hours and now your boss is trying to increase your hour count, then it might be reasonable to (gently) push back at the change in terms.

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    You are right about me spending some time writing my university's thesis, which only benefits me, didn't think about this one, this justifies it a little bit. – fblthp Feb 5 at 8:58
  • I hadn't immediately realized that you had negotiated terms a year ago and that the project was only starting now. This doesn't really change my answer, but I did make some minor edits to soften a few things. – cag51 Feb 5 at 17:26
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I think that the other answers are already adequate, but would like to add one point: Think of working for the agreed upon amount of money as an investment. You are investing into your future in the form of a possible place to work after graduation. Or, if you choose not to work there, into letters of recommendation from your current supervisors about your work ethic and abilities. Having been in the workforce for twenty years now, and having largely followed this kind of philosophy, I have found that these kinds of investments into relationships (with companies, with people, with projects) tend to pay off in many different ways and to a degree often vastly larger than the original investment in time and money: Job offers, more money, more responsibilities in projects, etc.

On the other hand, if you are recalcitrant about a few extra dollars or a few hours of work time, you might find yourself in a position where the company doesn't want to hire you after graduation, and your supervisor doesn't want to write you letters of recommendations once you leave either. Are you really that much better of in that case, having possibly earned a few extra bucks?

(I recognize that only people can invest who can afford to. If you actually need the money to survive and only have the choice between asking for more money or taking on a second job -- which is also time not spent on your project --, then the situation is different. This would be something I would talk to your supervisor about: They will understand your choices. But if you can live of the money you already get from the project, it may be worth making this kind of sacrifice for a year.)

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I don't think you have much leverage, given most people have no internship at all. I suspect you are also overvaluing your work. My advice is buckle down and just do a good job.

Note: I'm usually one of the "power to the people" types who advises negotiating salary and the like. Now, when you are on the full time job market, fine. But here? Company is probably already looking at you as a little bit of a luxury.

P.s. If you really wanted to seriously negotiate, you would need to have some alternate offer or the like. You don't. Ergo, no leverage.

P.s.s. You might ask, I guess. Perhaps they will pay you some hourly rate and they are a big company and don't think about it. But I wouldn't drive it too hard, unless you really have an alternate option. (A walkaway option.)

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