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Titled 'Make a Difference', the life-size bronze scultpure has been erected on campus at Winchester University as part of its £50 million West Downs Centre development.
The piece, which cost £23,760, was met with some backlash after it was commissioned in 2019, having been labelled a 'vanity project'.
However, the university maintains that the artwork has not 'diverted' any funds from students or staff.
Vice-chancellor Professor Joy Carter said: "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."
The statue has attracted some criticism, with the Winchester University and College Union (UCU) arguing that the funding should have been spent on preventing redundancies and cuts.
Posting a motion of censure on social media, it 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."
In response, Carter continued to say in her statement: "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."
The sculpture - which depicts Thunberg with her arms outstretched - was created by artist Christine Charlesworth, whose work was influenced by her personal experience of young people with a learning disability.
The university said it is believed to be the world's first life-size sculpture of the young Swedish climate change activist.
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."
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