'Vanity project' - Winchester University to unveil £24k Greta Thunberg statue amid job cuts and austerity

·2-min read

Union leaders have criticised Winchester University’s decision to unveil a £24,000 statue of climate activist Great Thunberg – following cuts to staff numbers and library services.

The university revealed it had commissioned a £23,760 bronze of Thunberg in 2019.

And the unveiling will take place next week amid anger from both the Student's Union (SU) and the University and College Union (UCU).

Speaking to Sky News, the SU's president, Megan Ball, said: "The statue was commissioned in 2019, however since then there have been library cuts, two staff redundancy schemes and there is also a mental health crisis among students.

"We have urged the university to consider the timing of the unveiling and to pause it; students are angry and frustrated.

"They can't decommission it and that money has been spent but students should have the opportunity to see how their money is being spent.

"This is an opportunity where they can be transparent and we will continue to urge the university to be open about how student money is spent."

Ms Ball added that students would like to know if the money spent on the statue is being matched to support housing refunds and mental health services.

An additional SU statement said: "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."

Meanwhile, the Winchester branch of the UCU has claimed the statue is a "vanity project" by the outgoing vice-chancellor Joy Carter who will step down in March after 15 years in her role.

It said it "notes that this has come after several years of austerity by the University of Winchester that have witnessed job cuts, increased workloads and attempts to extend casualisation".

The UCU added that the money could have been better spent on preventing redundancies and other cuts.

The bronze sculpture was commissioned as an "inspiration for all students" and was set in motion in 2019.

The project, which is funded by the university as part of the West Downs Centre development, was handed to artist Christine Charlesworth.

Mrs Carter said: "The statue is a symbol of our commitment to take transformative action to combat the climate emergency.

"We hope this statue will be an inspiration for future generations to stand with Greta, take inspiration from her life-saving message and urgently make a difference in the world."