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Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare MSc

Level: SCQF 11

Available at these campuses: Edinburgh

About the Course

SRUC and University of EdinburghThis course aims to enhance the knowledge and understanding of the scientific study of animal behaviour and animal welfare that can be applied effectively in science and practice.

This course is run in conjunction with the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (also known as Dick Vet), which has an impressive international reputation in Animal Welfare. This creates a solid platform for education and research opportunities.

At the end of the course, graduates will be able to:

  • have an increased understanding and awareness of the application of scientific principles to the study of animal behaviour and welfare, using farm animals;
  • the ability to utilise effective, modern methods for describing and analysing scientific data;
  • the ability to assess the welfare of animals in captivity and in the natural environment;
  • the skills (dependent on practical experience) to be able to offer advice on applied animal behaviour and animal welfare issues;
  • the capacity for considering philosophical debate relating to the use of animals by humans;
  • awareness of the global issues that have an impact on animal welfare.

 This programme has popular international appeal and is endorsed by many international organisations for its up-to-date understanding and application of the latest animal welfare methods and practices.

We provide students with an understanding of animal welfare that can be applied in animal research, management, care, production, inspection, assessment and preparation of legislation.

In addition to the core teaching team, we have many guest lecturers travel to Edinburgh each year to teach on the programme, allowing you to benefit from the experience and knowledge of professionals working throughout the animal behaviour and welfare community.

Our students benefit from the expertise of organisations such as:

  • WSPA
  • Humane Slaughter Association

Almost 100% of the teaching is done at the Easter Bush Veterinary Centre (EBVC), which is situated 10km south of the city centre. Directions to the EBVC are available under Find Out More.

The MSc Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare degree is awarded by the University of Edinburgh.

Contact Us

Programme Administrator: Dr Tamsin Coombs

Entry Requirements

Honours degree (first or 2:1), or equivalent in Animal Science, Biology, Psychology, Zoology or Veterinary Science. Evidence of proficiency in English must be provided by those for whom English is not their first language (IELTS 7.0 or equivalent).

Course Content

For more information please download our course leaflet.

The programme involves taught courses and your own dissertation.
Throughout the taught courses you will take part in many visits to farms and animal facilities and will study the following courses:

  • Introduction to Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare
  • Biology of Suffering
  • Animal Cognition and Consciousness
  • Scientific Methodology
  • Animal Welfare Applications

You can complete the programme over one, two or three years.

The programme has two elements, a taught component (120 credits) and a dissertation project (60 credits). The MSc is a one year course for full-time students. It is also a possible to complete the MSc over a period of two or three years.

Please note that candidates that require a Tier 4 Visa, do not have the 2 or 3 year flexible option and must study full time.


From March until August, you will work on a research project. Your dissertation is worth 60 credits and will give you the opportunity to further develop the skills gained from taught component of the programme. This is a chance to test your newly-improved scientific skills and utilise scientific theory in a less structured environment. You will begin your project in March and should have it completed by the middle of August. (This depends on study mode.)

Choosing a dissertation project

When you begin the programme in September we will have a list of projects available for you to select from. These projects will cover a range of species and may be in other parts of the UK or abroad.

If you are interested in a particular topic, and have been made an offer on the programme, you are welcome to contact the Programme Director who will help you in setting up your project by finding a location and a supervisor. Your research project can be about anything, from the study of communication in dogs, or prenatal stress in pigs, to the impact of tourism on wildlife.

We are flexible about your topic as long as your project:

  • is ethical
  • meets the remit of the programme
  • complies with Home Office regulations

You are encouraged to start thinking about a project as soon as your place on the MSc is confirmed. Examples of past dissertation topics:

  • Welfare of elephants in captivity
  • Tactile communication between cats and humans
  • Enhancing word learning in horses
  • Post-operative pain assessment in dogs
  • Pre-weaning survival in outdoor piglets
  • Effects of foraging devices on activity budgets of woolly monkeys and chimpanzees
  • Mate preferences of female Canna wood mice
  • Effects of urbanization on the social behaviour and food supply of the European badger
  • Effects of captivity on the skeletons of callitrichids