University of Winchester under fire for commissioning £24,000 Greta Thunberg statue

The statue in question. Credit: Christine Charlesworth

The University of Winchester will unveil a £24,000 statue of environmentalist campaigner Greta Thunberg, despite criticism over the use of money following cutbacks at the institution.

The Student Union was critical of the decision after a round of redundancies, library cuts and limitations of provisions.

Although the Student Union says it supports the work on Thunberg, it does not condone the spending on the statue.

Student Union President Megan Ball; vice president, education and welfare Victoria Hurley; and vice president, activities Ellen O'Dwyer released a joint statement.

They said: “The year in which this artistic piece is being delivered is one that has seen unimaginable financial impacts.

"Students have seen staff redundancies, library cuts and limitation of provisions.

"They are being charged full tuition fees for an academic year that is anything but normal.

"There is a crippling mental health crisis amongst students and wellbeing services are crying out for additional support.

"In our view, the unveiling of this statue next week shows that these issues are not their priorities.

“We appreciate that the statue was commissioned in 2019 as a part of the wider West Downs building budget; we acknowledge that this was not repurposed from other budgets such as those for mental health or Student Services.

"However, £23,760 is a considerable amount of money for a statue that the Student Union had no input or say.”

The University and College Union (UCU) branch at Winchester has also expressed concerns about the commissioning process.

They went as far as describing the decision to create the statue as a “vanity project by the outgoing vice chancellor” Joy Carter.

The university said in a statement: "Winchester Student Union and the Winchester branch of the Universities and Colleges Union have outlined their concerns around the University’s commission of the sculpture of Greta Thunberg.

"We are looking at those and welcome the engagement from both WSU and UCU on the issues raised."