There are plenty of things you could spend £24,000 on.

A bronze statue of teenage activist Greta Thunberg probably isn’t at the top of most people’s lists. The sculpture features Thunberg with her arms outstretched.

The university claims it is the world’s first life-size sculpture of Greta, and it reflects their ‘sustainability and social justice’ values.

They’ve called the statue ‘Make a Difference’. The statue is life-sized too and makes up part of Winchester University’s £50 million West Downs Centre development.

To be exact, it set them back £23,760. Designers of the project received backlash in 2019 when it was commissioned, because it’s been called a ‘vanity project’.

Funds

Meanwhile, the uni insists no funds were ‘diverted’ from students or staff to pay for the art. 

Vice-chancellor Professor Joy Carter says: “The university’s approach to art is to commission or purchase unusual and striking pieces which embody our distinctiveness and values.

Greta is a young woman who, in spite of difficulties in her life, has become a world-leading environmental activist.

As the university for sustainability and social justice we are proud to honour this inspirational woman in this way.

We know that many find her a controversial figure. As a university we welcome reasoned debate and critical conversations.

We hope her statue will help to inspire our community, reminding us that no matter what life throws at us we can still change the world for the better.

That is a message we want all our students and all young people to hear.

Vanity Project

The Winchester University and College Union (UCU) has been critical of the unveiling.

They have argued that the money spent on the statue could have gone towards preventing redundancies and cuts.

Plus, the union posted a motion of censure on social media.

In it, they referred to the sculpture as a ‘vanity project’, adding: “To be clear our concerns are about the expenditure and transparency of decision making by the university, which have long been opaque, not the subject of the statue.

Acknowledging these concerns, Carter added: “We are aware of some concerns raised about the financing of the statue.

The statue was commissioned in 2019 as part of the West Downs project from funds which could only be spent on that building.

No money was diverted from student support or from staffing to finance the West Downs project.

Courage And Determination

It was created by artist Christine Charlesworth. 

Charlesworth said: It is hard to deny her courage and determination. As is often the case with people on the autism spectrum, social interaction is difficult for her.

It is therefore even more remarkable that she has been able to forefront the mobilisation of young people in support of global environmental protection and to address world leaders on a face-to-face basis.

Do you think it was a good idea?

Images via Alamy