Animal Welfare Science, Ethics & Law MSc

Prestigious Scottish Funding Council Awards are available to high calibre applicants for this programme. The SFC has selected this programme in recognition of the high demand for students with these qualifications. The awards cover all tuition costs; for further information, please see: funded places.

Animal welfare science and ethics is an expanding topic of international concern, which is why the University of Glasgow offer an Animal Welfare MSc programme. 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.

Key facts

Why this programme

  • This Animal Welfare Degree 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
  • When studying Animal 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 Animal Welfare MSc at 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 to our Animal Welfare degree 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.

Academic staff

Senior Lecturer 
Ruedi Nager

Senior Lecturer 
Dorothy McKeegan

Aviary and Aquaria Manager
Graham Law

Honorary Senior Lecturer 
Roger Downie

Senior Lecturer 
Dominic McCafferty

Professor of Comparative Epidemiology
Sarah Cleaveland

Veterinary Surgeon
Michael Wilkinson

Director of Biological Services
Alan Bradley

Senior Lecturer in Veterinary Public Health
Billy Steele

The following external people have also taught on the programme:

  • Prof Rory Putman (Independent Consultant & Visiting Professor at IBAHCM)
  • Andrew Kitchener (NationalMuseumofScotland)
  • Andrea Fidgett (ChesterZoo)
  • Douglas Richardson(HighlandWildlifePark)
  • Mike Flynn and Ian Futter (SSPCA)

What our students say

That is what current students think of the programme:

‘It is unique among similar masters courses that we are able to chose from a variety of different courses according to our interests.’

‘It is a young science especially for wild animals for which I strongly belief more research is needed… All the professors behind this course are very experienced and have managed to give us plenty of their knowledge.’

‘Having talks from outside speakers (SSPCA etc.) is definitely beneficial as it gives you a first-hand account of animal welfare in action.’

‘…actual professionals that have been through different experiences teach us. This not only gives us more of a complete view of the area of study, but also helps us understand the different areas that we can pursue.’


Core and optional courses

Core Courses: Aims & Objectives

Key Research skills
To ensure that all students enrolled in the programme receive advanced and evidence-based training in the key skills essential for any modern research career and for the courses that they will take later in the programme. This includes principles of Scientific Writing and Effective Communication in English, Introduction to the Programming Environment R, Advanced Statistics, and Experimental Design and Power Analysis.

Animal ethics
To provide students with a critical awareness of the principles of relevant ethical frameworks and how this relates to legal considerations and different forms of human use of animals.

Animal welfare science
To provide students with an evidence-based critical and detailed understanding of welfare assessment methodologies and practical experience of how welfare issues are addressed at sites that keep animals for different forms of human use, including research on wild animals.

Independent research project

Legislation related to animal welfare
To provide students with a rigorous evidence-based understanding of the different pieces of legislation underlying the use of animals in scientific research, in zoos and in farms and wildlife crime. The main focus will be how we will interface with legislation as an animal welfare practitioner.

Optional Courses:

Biology of suffering
To provide students with an advanced understanding of issues on consciousness, sentience and suffering in animals and how this relates to ethical and legal considerations.

Enrichment of animals in captive environments
To provide students with the underlying principles that will guide enrichment and the design of enclosures and encourages students to creatively think about their own solution to welfare issues.

Care of captive animals
To provide students with a critical awareness of issues relating to care of captive animals and relate these to legislation and welfare science.

Assessment of physiological state
To provide students with an evidence-based understanding of methods and techniques used to assess physiological state of wild animals and provide them with the competence to identify the health state of wild animal and to respond appropriately to this.

Entry requirements

for entry in 2016

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.

English language requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training)

  • overall score 6.5
  • no sub-test less than 6.0
  • or equivalent scores in another recognised qualification (see below)

Common equivalent English language qualifications

All stated English tests are acceptable for admission for both home/EU and international students for this programme:

  • ibTOEFL: 92; no sub-test less than 20
  • CAE (Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English): 176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • CPE (Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English):  176 overall; no sub-test less than 169
  • PTE Academic (Person Test of English, Academic test): 60; no sub-test less than 59
  • Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English: ISEII at Distinction with Distinction in all sub-tests

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use these tests to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level programmes. The University is also able to accept an IELTS test (Academic module) from any of the 1000 IELTS test centres from around the world and we do not require a specific UKVI IELTS test for degree level programmes. We therefore still accept any of the English tests listed for admission to this programme.

Pre-sessional courses

The University of Glasgow accepts evidence of the required language level from the English for Academic Study Unit Pre-sessional courses. We also consider other BALEAP accredited pre-sessional courses:


What do I do if...

my language qualifications are below the requirements?

The University's English for Academic Study Unit offers a range of Pre-Sessional Courses to bring you up to entry level. The course is accredited by BALEAP, the UK professional association for academic English teaching; see Links.

my language qualifications are not listed here?

Please contact the Recruitment and International Office:


For further information about English language requirements, please contact the Recruitment and International Office:

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for 2016-17


Home and EU
Full time fee£6950
Full time fee£18900


Home and EU
Full time fee£4633
Full time fee£12600

Fees are subject to change and for guidance only


The University requires a deposit of £1000 to be paid by International (beyond the EU) applicants in receipt of an offer to this programme.

Funding opportunities

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.

How to apply

We ask that you apply online for a postgraduate taught degree. Our system allows you to fill out the standard application form online and submit this to the University within 42 days of starting your application.

You need to read the guide to applying online before starting your application. It will ensure you are ready to proceed, as well as answer many common questions about the process.

Guide to applying online

Do I have to apply online for a postgraduate taught degree?

Yes. To apply for a postgraduate taught degree you must apply online. We are unable to accept your application by any other means than online.

Do I need to complete and submit the application in a single session?

No. You have 42 days to submit your application once you begin the process. You may save and return to your application as many times as you wish to update information, complete sections or upload additional documents such as your final transcript or your language test.

What documents do I need to provide to make an application?

As well as completing your online application fully, it is essential that you submit the following documents:

  • A copy (or copies) of your official degree certificate(s) (if you have already completed your degree)
  • A copy (or copies) of your official academic transcript(s), showing full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained
  • Official English translations of the certificate(s) and transcript(s)
  • Two supporting reference letters on headed paper
  • Evidence of your English Language ability (if your first language is not English)
  • Any additional documents required for this programme (see Entry requirements for this programme)
  • A copy of the photo page of your passport (Non-EU students only)

If you do not have all of these documents at the time of submitting your application then it is still possible to make an application and provide any further documents at a later date, as long as you include a full current transcript (and an English translation if required) with your application. See the ‘Your References, Transcripts and English Qualification’ sections of our Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

Do my supporting documents need to be submitted online?

Yes, where possible, please upload the supporting documents with your application.

How do I provide my references?

You must either upload the required references to your online application or ask your referees to send the references to the University as we do not contact referees directly. There is two main ways that you can provide references: you can either upload references on headed paper when you are making an application using the Online Application (or through Applicant Self-Service after you have submitted your application) or you can ask your referee to email the reference directly to See the 'Your References, Transcripts and English Qualifications' section of the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.

What if I am unable to submit all of my supporting documents online?

If you cannot upload an electronic copy of a document and need to send it in by post, please attach a cover sheet to it that includes your name, the programme you are applying for, and your application reference number.

You may send them to:

Recruitment & International Office
71 Southpark Avenue
G12 8QQ
Fax: +44 141 330 4045

Can I email my supporting documents?

No. We cannot accept email submissions of your supporting documents.

What entry requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

You should check that you have met (or are likely to have met prior to the start of the programme) the individual entry requirements for the degree programme you are applying for. This information can be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab on each individual programme page, such as the one you are viewing now.

What English Language requirements should I have met before applying? Where can I find them?

If you are an international student, you should also check that you have met the English Language requirements specific to the programme you are applying for. These can also be found on the ‘entry requirements’ tab for each specific programme.

Further Information

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions for more information on applying to a postgraduate taught programme.

Guidance notes for using the online application

These notes are intended to help you complete the online application form accurately, they are also available within the help section of the online application form. If you experience any difficulties accessing the online application then you should visit the Application Troubleshooting/FAQs page.

  • Name and Date of birth: must appear exactly as they do on your passport. Please take time to check the spelling and lay-out.
  • Contact Details: Correspondence address. All contact relevant to your application will be sent to this address including the offer letter(s). If your address changes, please contact us as soon as possible.
  • Choice of course: Please select carefully the course you want to study. As your application will be sent to the admissions committee for each course you select it is important to consider at this stage why you are interested in the course and that it is reflected in your application.
  • Proposed date of entry: Please state your preferred start date including the month and the year. Taught masters degrees tend to begin in September. Research degrees may start in any month.
  • Education and Qualifications: Please complete this section as fully as possible indicating any relevant Higher Education qualifications starting with the most recent. Complete the name of the Institution (s) as it appears on the degree certificate or transcript.
  • English Language Proficiency: Please state the date of any English language test taken (or to be taken) and the award date (or expected award date if known).
  • Employment and Experience: Please complete this section as fully as possible with all employments relevant to your course. Additional details may be attached in your personal statement/proposal where appropriate.
  • References: Please provide the names and contact details of two academic references. Where applicable one of these references may be from your current employer. References should be completed on letter headed paper and uploaded on to your application.

Standard application deadlines

  • International applications (non-EU): 22 July 2016 
  • UK and EU applications: 26 August 2016

Classes start September 2016 and you may be expected to attend induction sessions the week before.

Please note: applications for SFC funded places are open for entry in September 2016.

Apply now