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Long Service Award profile: Peter Elias

Name: Peter Elias CBE

Job title: Professor

Department: Institute for Employment Research

Number of years at Warwick: 41


There’s no such thing as a typical day, but, in brief, my job involves...

Bringing in research income and working on a wide variety of research projects over the years. This has involved maintaining good links with many government departments and agencies, other research funders such as the UK research councils, charitable foundations, the European Commission and numerous international bodies such as the World Bank, the International Labour Office, the IMF, US Aid, etc. I originally trained as a labour economist at UC Berkeley, where I worked immediately prior to my arrival at Warwick in 1975, but have been working in the interdisciplinary environment of the IER ever since.

In terms of working with other departments, the closest links I have had have been with Economics and the Business School. This has involved teaching links and research partnerships, all of which have been enjoyable experiences.

My most memorable moment at Warwick has been...

It is hard to pick on any one moment as more memorable than others. Almost every week brings its memorable moments, which may be in terms of winning a bidding process, seeing a colleague promoted, sharing in sad events that befall us at times, embarrassing moments we can now laugh at, or just turning up at work in the morning and being greeted by smiling staff.

Warwick has been such a great place to work. I have seen many of my colleagues move around from job to job as they progress their careers, but I have never found or been offered a better job than those which I have held here at Warwick over the past four decades. Some may interpret that as a lack of ambition or resistance to change, but I would argue that it says more about the innovative and dynamic nature of the research environment that has always existed here at Warwick.

In my time at Warwick, the biggest change I’ve seen is...

The growth of the campus, which has been extraordinary. My wife and I and our three month old first daughter arrived at the 'central campus' on a wet and windswept October day in 1975. Everywhere was a sea of orange mud, with few buildings around us. While I tried to find out where I would be working (the east site), I came back to find my wife in tears, asking 'Why have we left California for this?'. We agreed to 'stick it out' for two years, then return if it didn’t work out. So, here we are 41 years later...

Warwick’s kept me here because...

They kept making me offers I couldn’t refuse. This is primarily because of the support I have had from colleagues, particulary from Professor Robert Lindley, who had the vision for the Institute for Employment Research (then known as the Manpower Research Group) and was the driving force behind its development.

At the moment I’m really enjoying working on...

A number of projects as I move into a ‘semi-retired’ state, with more time and less pressure than previously. Over the years I have done a lot of work on the topic of occupational classification. This might sound very boring, and it can be a real conversation stopper at social gatherings until I explain that this work has taken me and my colleagues to over 50 countries across the world, places as different as Barbados and Kazakhstan.

Warwick’s unique because...

It allows ideas and innovation to flourish. At a personal level, I have come up with some hair-brained ideas for research in the past – a number have worked while many haven’t. But the point is, I have been supported in these attempts, a research environment that not many universities would encourage.

The best thing about working at Warwick is...

The people I have worked with and got to know over the years. As a researcher you cannot work on your own these days, and who would want to anyway! Some still work here with me while many are now dispersed all over the world. Keeping in touch is almost a full-time job in itself, but I love to have their news.

If I could change one thing at the University, it would be...

To declare Warwick as a totally smoke free university. This would do wonders for the future health of Warwick students. While it may give rise to a slight fall in admissions in the first instance, it is bound to happen at some time. So why not have Warwick in the lead?

I’m really glad I got involved with...

Many years ago, a fundraising effort for Leukemia Research following the death of a young boy we knew. The generosity of the lower-paid staff of the university was overwhelming.

I used my Warwick Learning Account vouchers for...

Language classes. I have enrolled for a Greek course (again – at my age it gets harder and harder to remember what you learnt from the year before!)

I recently watched...

Madame Butterfly (live from the Met) at the Arts Centre and cried my eyes out over the superb puppetry!

I usually travel to campus...

By bus, because it’s free for me after 9.30am in the morning. I do feel a bit guilty about this, so I try to ride in on my bike if the weather is good.

My favourite place on campus is...

The bluebell wood on the path over to the east campus. This is just a little reminder of one of the effects of the last ice age and puts all the campus development into perspective.

Peter Elias