Top Degrees in Animal Welfare, Ethics and Behaviour

Animal welfare science is a relatively new field that combines knowledge from many disciplines, including ethology, sociology, biology, animal husbandry and veterinary medicine. It aims to improve our understanding of how animals feel and behave in different situations, and to develop ways to enhance their welfare.

There are a number of different degrees available in this area, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Here are our top picks:

Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law MSc (University of Winchester, UK)

This degree is 1 year full-time and 2-3 years part-time through distance learning only. Normally the requirement for admission is a first or second-class Honours degree that includes a related subject in the life or health sciences or humanities, or professional experience in the area of study (for example, within animal welfare charities, the veterinary profession, or as an animal welfare officer). If English is not your first language, the requirement for admission is IELTS 6.0 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in writing or equivalent. Students from all countries can apply for this degree. The course content includes examining and communicating the importance of animal welfare to academic and other audiences. The program is partly based on the theoretical syllabus required for the European and US animal welfare qualifications for veterinarians. You will learn from highly qualified and internationally renowned teachers. The University of Winchester is a world leader in terms of good values such as compassion and social justice, which are central to the character of this course. You will consider animal rights and the ethics around using animals for food, sport, and scientific research. How should society reflect those rights and ethics in our law-making and public policies? The course analyzes the many forms of animal use in different settings, such as farming, transportation and slaughter, laboratories, homes, zoos and various other entertainment environments, and about free-ranging animals in natural environments. During the course you use a range of data and sound scientific processes. The course is different from other similar courses partly because of the range of animals covered, including wild, free-ranging animals, invertebrates, pest animals, and the welfare problems associated with them. Modules include Animals and Society; Animal Interests, Capacities and Ethical Considerations; Animal Behavior and Psychological States; and a 15,000-word dissertation on your chosen topic. The modules may change. Classes are taught using the online virtual learning platform, in the form of core notes with additional readings, videos and lecture notes. Tutorials and other support are offered. You may be assessed through essays, portfolios, supervised independent work, presentations, written exams, or practical performances. Assessments include online blogs, participation in discussions, and a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of your interest. The university ensures all students have an equal opportunity to achieve module learning outcomes. Therefore, students with recognized disabilities may be given alternative assignments where appropriate and necessary. You will get timely and appropriate feedback on your academic progress and achievement to help you to reflect on your progress and plan your academic and skills development effectively. You can get additional feedback from your course tutors. Graduates work as animal behaviorists, within animal welfare and advocacy organizations; zoos; sanctuaries and other organizations requiring knowledge of animal management and welfare; with governmental departments working on animal issues; agencies aiming to maintain welfare standards; and commercial organizations hoping to introduce such standards to their agricultural suppliers. Tuition fees for international students through distance learning in 2019 are £6,500 full-time and £3,250 part-time per year. A variety of scholarships and bursaries are available.

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MRes Animal Behaviour and Welfare (Hartpury University, UK)

The MRes in Animal Behavior and Welfare is 1 year full-time but part-time options are available. During this course you will analyze progress in animal behavior in the context of animal cognition, animal personality, animal communication and language, sexual selection and sexual conflict, and social behavior. You will also look at current issues in animal welfare science such as methods of animal welfare assessment, animal welfare legislation, welfare complications of keeping animals in captivity and issues related to improving and assessing animal welfare. The course includes 60 credits of taught modules, including core modules of advances in animal behavior, current issues in animal welfare and research methods. Some of these credits are optional modules such as wildlife conflict, postgraduate independent study and reflection on practice. These modules are usually taught in two day blocks. This means that the teaching is condensed to allow the Masters study to fit around other commitments in your life. The modules will give you the opportunity to develop your abilities in research design and statistical analysis. The skills you will learn, along with one to one support, will allow you to understand and apply current scientific thinking, develop new ideas and evaluate current processes and practices. This will allow you to effectively design and carry out your dissertation research project. This will be original research that will make a valuable contribution to the field of animal behavior or animal welfare. The dissertation is highly flexible. It gives you the freedom to develop your chosen research project to fit in with your specific interests and career aspirations. The knowledge and skills that you get from the program will improve your career prospects and can be applied in future scientific research and in practical areas such as conservation, animal welfare organizations, research centers and zoos. The annual full-time tuition fee in 2019 is £12,250.

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MSc Animal Health and Welfare (Notthingham University)

This course is 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time. The course covers the scientific theory and practice relating to animal health and welfare. It combines advanced research and academic skills with science skills. There is an emphasis on the biology of health and welfare science, while you use multiple disciplines for the wider subject area. You’ll discover how to apply your knowledge to real world situations, such as improving agricultural production using animals for educational and therapeutic purposes, or effectively increasing welfare within a rescue environment. You’ll study the current issues and insights in the most important animal health and welfare topics, and the philosophical, welfare and ethical issues related to these. You’ll explore general patterns in human and animal cognition, behavior, and psychological functioning, and appreciate how these relate to health and welfare science. The course also assesses the biological and social basis of human-animal interactions, to improve our understanding and the quality of these interactions. On this course you will also evaluate the accurateness and credibility of published research, and assess its relevance to new situations within the discipline. You’ll gain an insight into recent progress in animal science – therefore, attending a relevant scientific conference is strongly advised as an integral part of the course. You’ll be taught using a mixture of lectures, seminars and practical sessions. You will also have opportunities to present your work to peers and academic staff. You will have to learn on your own sometimes and you will do high-quality research. You will research your chosen topic in depth, then design and implement a relevant research project. You’ll communicate the findings to an informed audience in a scientific report. Teaching is supported by our modern Animal Unit which houses over 150 animals of 40 different species. The collection consists of domesticated and exotic species, in settings that are as natural as possible. There are specialist teaching rooms within the Animal Unit which have various research equipment and essential resources to enhance your learning experience. You’ll also benefit from our veterinary and equestrian facilities, as well as the working farm which includes sheep and a herd of Lincoln red beef cattle, and the poultry unit. The annual tuition fee for 2019 is £14,500 full-time. *Please note that if you are considering a course that runs over more than one year, the tuition fee stated is for the first year of study. The course fee for the second year may be subject to annual review.

MSc Clinical Animal Behavior (Lincoln University, UK)

The course takes 13 months (including the thesis) full-time and 33 months (including the thesis) part-time. The University of Lincoln’s MSc Clinical Animal Behavior program is headed by a team of experts and is accredited by the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. This Master’s degree takes an evidence-based approach, which aims to develop your theoretical and practical skills to manage problem behaviour in companion animals. It is headed by a team of experts, including Europe’s first veterinary behavior professor, European and Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s specialist Daniel Mills. Teaching is informed by research and practice. You will have the opportunity to get experience of actual cases through access to the School of Life Sciences’ veterinary behaviour clinic. The curriculum is closely linked to the research done in the School’s Animal Behaviour Cognition and Welfare Group. You may have the opportunity to work with academics on high-profile projects, many of which are funded by research councils, charities and commercial bodies. Formal teaching is supported by a range of individual study and peer-to-peer activities, which aim to improve practical and cognitive problem solving skills. This program uses roleplay workshops and peer-to-peer discussion is encouraged through the University’s virtual learning environment. Full-time students will receive 12 hours of contact time per week during the teaching time of this course. Part-time students should expect to receive 6 hours per week. Your individual study will require many hours. Full-time students should allow for between 20-30 hours of studying alone per week and part-time students should expect to study between 15 – 20 hours per week. You will be assessed though coursework, case material assessment, written and oral exams, together with a final thesis that will include a poster presentation. The full-time annual fee for 2019 is £16,000.

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