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I am a masters student in Computer Science. I also work for a software development company which happens to sponsor a scholarship that I want to apply to.

I was concerned about the ethical aspect of applying to this scholarship, I contacted the communications department via e-mail and asked if it is illegal and/or unethical to apply. Response said that company employees can apply, which means, I can apply. The answer did not state anything about the second part of my question - would it be unethical?

I also know that the CEO of my company will be the head of sponsorship committee.

Should I just ignore this weird circumstance and write my motivation letter as if there was no connection between my employer and the scholarship? Or should I not even apply?

Edit: My initial question had 2 parts so I split it into separate questions. The other question, How would applying for a scholarship sponsored by employer affect my employer's perception of me?, is posted on Workplace.SE. It is a different question and I expect an answer from a different angle to it.

  • This seems to be less about academia and more about internal politics in your company. I would take this to Workplace.SE. – Nate Eldredge Sep 11 '14 at 15:58
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about workplace issues. – Nate Eldredge Sep 11 '14 at 15:59
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    @NateEldredge I've removed the part about recognition in the workplace, making an impression on CEO, etc; now it's entirely about the ethical implications of applying for the scholarship. – ff524 Sep 11 '14 at 16:05
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    @ff524 Well thought! I think I will take the other part of my initial question and post it on Workplace.SE. One situation, two separate questions, each one fitting on a separate SE site. Would you agree? – MoustacheMan Sep 11 '14 at 16:08
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    Yes, I think the question of "How would applying for a scholarship sponsored by employer affect my employer's perception of me?" would probably be appropriate on Workplace. – ff524 Sep 11 '14 at 16:10
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"I contacted the communications department via e-mail and asked if it is illegal and/or unethical to apply. Response said that company employees can apply, which means, I can apply."

I think that answers the ethics about it as well. As long as you are open about the fact that you are a company employee, there is no scope for you to violate any ethics. Any possible violation (which I don't think there are any) would be in the company's hands.

Think about this - why is the company offering a scholarship? They probably want the recipient to graduate and then work for the company. Thus by attracting top students to apply for an attractive scholarship, they gain a highly skilled and motivated employee. Sure, the fact that you already work for them might give you an advantage in the application process. But this is a private company giving out privately earned funding. They should be able to pay whomever they choose, for whatever reason.

In the end, there is really little difference between this, and an internal hire.

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It wouldn't be unethical or surprising if, on receipt of the company's scholarship you were offered a work placement with them. For that reason, I don't think you should be concerned about applying through the normal means as if you were any other applicant.

What would make this unethical, would be to turn up for work and:

Morning CEO! How's the wife and kids? I just got back from my holiday in Scotland, and I thought you might enjoy this whiskey.

Oh -- by the way, I heard about the scholarship you're offering, I'm really interested in applying for that, so I just thought I'd drop off my application. I'll leave it over here with the whiskey.

In short, if you just apply through the normal process, I do not think anyone can complain of any wrong-doing. I'm sure there's at least one stage to get your application through before anyone even realises you work there.

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Companies funding their employee's studies is common and I believe not considered unethical. If you worry about whether employees will be given preferential treatment over non-employees, I'd say it's the scholarship committee's problem, not yours.

  • They are not funding my studies. My studies are funded by the government because of my study results. The scholarship sponsored by my company is of different kind - kind of like, reward, recognition for the best IT/CS student in the faculty. I can't put it in words that well. Another thing, this scholarship lasts for a year, not for full duration of my studies. – MoustacheMan Sep 11 '14 at 16:29
  • "They are not funding my studies." They will if you get the scholarship. ;) Only partially, but that doesn't really matter. – fkraiem Sep 11 '14 at 16:35

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