Taught course

Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law

University of Glasgow · Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine

Entry requirements

At least a 2.2 Honours degree or equivalent (e.g. GPA of 3.0 or above) in a relevant subject. Professional experience may be taken into account. In your application, please submit a personal statement (up to 200 words) outlining your interests and why you want to study this programme at the University of Glasgow. Further information regarding academic entry requirements: student.recruitment@glasgow.ac.uk.

Months of entry


Course content

Animal welfare science and ethics is an expanding topic of international concern. It aims to improve our knowledge and understanding of animals’ needs, which is required to provide a high standard of care to the whole range of animals kept in captivity.

Why Glasgow

  • This Masters programme is offered by the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine (IBAHCM); a grouping of top researchers who focus on combining ecology and evolution with more applied problems in animal health and welfare.
  • You will be taught by research-active staff using the latest approaches in understanding and responding to animal welfare-related issues, legislation related to use of animals, and both theoretical and applied ethics.
  • In addition, you will have opportunities to develop skills in quantitative methods, sequence analysis, conservation biology, epidemiology and practical approaches to assessing biodiversity.
  • A unique strength of the University of Glasgow for many years has been the strong ties between veterinarians and ecologists, which has now been formalised in the formation of the IBAHCM. This direct linking is rare but offers unique opportunities to provide training that spans both fundamental and applied research.
  • The IBAHCM also offers an MSc in Quantitative Methods in Biodiversity, Conservation and Epidemiology. This degree is more focused on ecology and evolutionary biology and provides the opportunity for you to gain key quantitative skills that are not often a focus of welfare-based programmes.
  • You will have the opportunity to base your independent research projects at the University field station on Loch Lomond (for freshwater or terrestrial-based projects); Millport field station on the Isle of Cumbria (for marine projects); or Cochno farm in Glasgow (for research based on farm animals). We will also assist you to gain research project placements in zoos or research laboratories, whenever possible.
  • You will gain core skills and knowledge across a wide range of subjects that will enhance your selection chances for competitive PhD programmes. In addition to academic options, career opportunities include roles in zoos, government agencies, officers of animal welfare, protection, or wildlife crime, veterinary nursing and aquaculture
  • We have many links with animal welfare-related organisations through them coming to us to teach their expertise on our programme and the class going to visit their organisation to obtain a first-hand view of what working is like at these organisations. Many of them also provide the students with opportunities to carry out their independent research project within their company. Students will also be able to capitalise on the strong ties between the veterinarians and ecologists at the IBAHCM. This allows us to directly link fundamental and applied research and offers unique opportunities to provide training that spans both theory and praxis.
  • We have currently the following partners involved in this programme:
  • Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Scottish SPCA)
  • Highland Wildlife Park, Kingussie
  • BlairDrummondSafari Park
  • ChesterZoo
  • The Aspinall Foundation (Howletts & Port Lympne)
  • National Museum Scotland

Programme Structure

The programme provides a strong grounding in scientific writing and communication, statistical analysis, and experimental design. It is designed for flexibility, to enable you to customise a portfolio of courses suited to your particular interests.

You can choose from a range of specialised options that encompass key skills in:

  • Ethics, legislative policy and welfare science – critical for promoting humane treatment of both captive and wild animals.
  • Monitoring and assessing biodiversity – critical for understanding the impacts of environmental change.
  • Quantitative analyses of ecological and epidemiological data – critical for animal health and conservation.

Core courses:

  • Key research skills: Scientific communication; Introduction to R; Advanced linear models; Experimental design and power analysis
  • Animal ethics
  • Animal welfare science
  • Legislation related to animal welfare
  • Independent research project.

Optional courses:

  • Enrichment of animals in captive environments
  • Care of captive animals
  • Biology of suffering
  • Assessment of physiological state
  • Freshwater sampling techniques
  • Marine sampling techniques
  • Invertebrate identification
  • Vertebrate identification
  • Molecular analyses for DNA barcoding and biodiversity measurement
  • Phyloinformatics
  • Conservation genetics and phylodynamics
  • Infectious disease ecology and the dynamics of emerging disease
  • Single-species population models
  • Multi-species models
  • Spatial processes
  • Introduction to Bayesian statistics.

Animal Welfare is a very broad and applied field and the programme aims to provide coverage of all the different aspects of the topic which are often treated separately. Science is an essential skill in order to have a good understanding of welfare but we appreciate that applicants may come from diverse backgrounds and therefore the course includes a rigorous training in science communication, experimental design, data analysis and interpretation. The programme also includes teaching by practitioners and visits to organisations with first-hand experience of applied welfare problems. The programme also attempts to cover the entire spectrum of animal welfare, including zoos, farms, laboratory animals and wildlife.

Career Prospects

Students are exposed to potential work places and can make valuable contacts with professionals in the welfare community. Where possible this is a two-way exchange in which communities are offered help with any issues they have and for which assistance may be provided in finding a solution (e.g. through independent research projects, supervised by university staff). This is also an option open to other courses and could benefit the students in the long-term as well as give the university valuable connections with the wider community.

Information for international students

General English language requirements:

  • IELTS 6.5 (with no subtest less than 6);
  • iBT TOEFL 92 (with no less than 21 in Listening & writing, 22 in reading, 23 in speaking);
  • Cambridge ESOL Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) - B minimum;
  • or Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) - C minimum.

Fees and funding

UK students
International students

Please visit our website for information on funding.

Qualification and course duration


full time
12 months


full time
9 months

Course contact details

Professor Dan Haydon