Lecturer teaching a class with a presentation slide showing a dogs face close-up
MRes, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate

Animal Behaviour and Welfare

Typical offer: 2:1 honours degree or equivalent

Duration: 1-3 years; full-time and part-time options

Awarding body: Hartpury University

Course code: D32A12

Apply for this course here: https://www.hartpury.ac.uk/university/courses/postgraduate/mres-animal-behaviour-and-welfare/mres-animal-behaviour-and-welfare-2021/


Course overview

This course is ideal for those who want to expand existing expertise in animal behaviour and welfare science through research, preparing for PhD study or wanting to advance a specific area of their professional practice.

You’ll learn from leading animal experts on a campus that’s home to over 70 different species as part of our animal collection, plus an abundance of wildlife.

Research-active lecturers and professors will support you to advance knowledge gained from your first degree or employment.

You’ll learn how to develop practical solutions for existing and emerging challenges in animal behaviour and welfare science, focusing your research on your interests and career aspirations.

You’ll have access to a diverse range of species from our own animal collection – domestics, exotics, invertebrates and amphibians– as well as a wealth of wildlife across our 360-hectare rural site. We’re also home to equine and canine therapy centres, as well as specialist dog agility activities and expertise.

Our strong industry connections with rescue centres, animal trainers and behaviourists, zoos and conservationists, will further enhance your experiences and extend your professional networks. Delivery is flexible and often at weekends to fit around work or other commitments.

Apply now Contact us: +44 (0)1452 702244

What you'll study

What you'll study


This course focuses on fundamental advances in animal behaviour, including cognition, personality, communication, and social behaviour. You’ll also look at contemporary issues in animal welfare science, such as methods and issues of animal welfare assessment and improvement, animal welfare legislation and welfare implications of captivity.

Compulsory and optional modules will enable you to develop expertise to suit your interests and career aspirations. Opportunities to focus on contemporary issues, including an optional field trip to examine wildlife conflict in South Africa*, as well as your own piece of significant research will equip you with new expertise to advance your career and inform your own and future scientific research, as well as industry practice.

The taught modules will expand your knowledge of animal behaviour and welfare science, enabling you to critically evaluate research and develop your abilities in research design and statistical analysis. These skills, along with one-to-one support, will allow you to understand and apply current scientific thinking to welfare issues, evaluating and developing new ideas to improve real-world practice.

Your dissertation project, which provides opportunities for academic publishing, will be a piece of original research that will make a valuable contribution to the field of animal behaviour or welfare. This project is highly flexible, providing freedom for you to research your chosen topic in line with your interests and career aspirations.

You’ll also be encouraged to attend industry conferences, with opportunities to present research in key areas – this provides a great platform for you to develop your knowledge and reputation, as well as industry networks.

*Places are limited.

Postgraduate Certificate and Postgraduate Diploma

These qualifications form part of and are at the same level as the full master’s degree. They provide the ideal opportunity for you to develop your professional expertise via shorter qualifications, whilst allowing flexibility to progress each qualification through to the next level, including the full master’s degree.


Below you’ll find the compulsory modules for this course. You’ll also be able to choose from a range of optional modules to suit your interests and career goals. Optional modules change each year in line with student, industry and research demands.

Compulsory modules

Analyse recent advances in the field of animal behaviour, including cognition, personality, social behaviour and communication.

Analyse contemporary issues in animal welfare, including legislation, welfare concerns and welfare assessment.

Discuss research methodologies and applications, as well as strengths, weaknesses and limitations of different methods.

Develop and undertake a research project of your choosing.

Optional modules

Optional modules change each year in line with student, industry and research demands.

Recent subjects are available at all levels of study and have previously included project-type modules, tailored to interests and career goals, as well as modules designed to encourage reflective professional practice. There is also an optional wildlife field trip module in South Africa (see additional costs section) - places are limited.

Please visit our document library for more module information.

Further module information

How you'll study

How you'll study

We're committed to supporting you to fulfil your unique potential while you're here so that you can achieve your personal and professional goals.

Your support network

You'll benefit from a strong support network from day one. This will range from your lecturers, supervisors and personal tutor to our specialist academic (Achievement and Success Centre), employability (Innovation, Careers and Enterprise) and wellbeing teams.

Your learning experiences

You'll experience a range of teaching methods to strengthen your understanding of topics, including lectures, workshops and practical sessions.

Further details

One year, full-time

You can study each of these qualifications full-time and subsequently complete each within one year.

Two-three years, part-time

Alternatively, we offer flexible part-time options to help students to manage their studies alongside other commitments. These options can be tailored to suit your own needs, enabling you to complete your qualification in two or three years. Please enquire for further details.

On successful completion of your modules you’ll gain academic credit that accumulates towards your award. The marks you gain may contribute towards your final qualification differential award (pass, merit or distinction).

The course is taught in English.

The modules contain a mixture of scheduled learning – lectures, workshops and practical sessions – alongside independent learning. Students are expected to dedicate at least two to three hours of independent study per contact hour.

Contact learningPlacement learningIndependent learning
MRes degree9%0%91%
Postgraduate Diploma21%0%79%
Postgraduate Certificate20%0%80%

Teaching contact time and method will vary depending on the optional module that you choose to study.

You’ll be assessed through a mixture of written exams, practical exams and written assignments. Many of the modules will be marked based on a mixture of assessment types, whilst others will be based solely on one type of assessment. Feedback will be given verbally, in writing and during taught sessions.

Written examPractical examCoursework
Postgraduate Diploma6%30%64%
Postgraduate Certificate12%33%55%

The full MRes course is made up of three semesters, within which you’ll study compulsory and optional modules on different topics. The bulk of taught content will be completed on weekends in semester one.There will be some taught content in semester two, but the primary focus in semesters two and three will be your research project.

Semesters normally consist of 12 weeks of scheduled teaching and then assessment weeks, with an overview below:

  • Scheduled teaching generally takes place across block weekends (Friday – Sunday)
  • Delivery on the teaching weekends is normally scheduled between 9.00am – 5.00pm
  • Attendance dates and timetables are available before enrolment to support the arrangement of annual leave where required


Professional practice

Some optional modules require you to reflect on your current professional practice, so if you are currently working in a role in the animal industry (voluntary, paid, full or part-time), this will be an ideal supplement to your studies.

Field trips

The optional Wildlife Conflict module includes a 10-day residential stay on a game reserve in South Africa, studying the relationships between wildlife and local populations. The field trip has an associated cost (see fees section), but represents a fantastic opportunity to study this unique human-animal ecosystem with our expert academic staff.

Graduate destinations

The research component of this degree makes it ideal for those wishing to undertake more significant academic research via a PhD or for those who wish to advance a specific area of their professional practice.

Students have gone on to undertake their doctorate, as well as securing professional roles or progressing existing roles at zoos, aquariums, wildlife parks, domestic animal rescue/rehoming, conservation or welfare centres.

Our careers team can support you to find and prepare for employment. Potential graduate destinations include:

  • PhD study
  • Work in the animal charity campaigning sector
  • Animal rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming/release
  • Starting your own business in the animal industry
  • Teaching in animal-related subjects
  • General management, training and care of animals in various sectors


World-class facilities

You’ll have access to a diverse range of facilities while you’re here, many of which are newly built and world-class. Alongside lectures halls and workshop spaces, these include:

Animal collection

You’ll have access to Hartpury’s diverse animal collection, which includes domestic animals, exotics, invertebrates and amphibians, as well as a broad range of wildlife across our 360-hectare rural site, which provides a conservation area. We also have our own canine hydrotherapy centre and dog agility activities.

Equine Centre

We’re home to an extensive Equine Centre that includes international competition arenas hosting equestrian athletes each week, a research-active equine therapy centre and stabling for 230 horses.

Laboratories and specialist equipment

Our laboratories are modern and well equipped, providing the ideal spaces for scientific activities and research. Some are used for specialist microbiological culturing and analysis, others for biochemistry and physiology. In addition, we have specialist kit (eg. force plates) and spaces for use in the study of areas relevant to behaviour and welfare, such as biomechanics.

Home Farm and Agri-Tech Centre

Our award-winning livestock farm and agricultural technology centre are home to specialist data collection and research equipment. Many animal students choose to study here, specifically to enhance the science underpinning behaviour and welfare in agricultural fields.

Study spaces

Our University Learning Centre has journals, ebooks, computers and break-out study spaces, as well as our Study Zone – an informal space with sports equipment, study booths and chill-out spaces to support both studying and relaxation. Postgraduate students also have a specially designated study area with 24-hour access.

Entry requirements

Entry requirements

  • Applicants should have at least an upper second class (2:1) honours degree in a relevant subject.

  • Students with non-relevant qualifications but with sufficient work experience or professional experience will be considered on an individual basis.

Please contact us for further information:

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Fees and funding

Tuition fees and financial support

Please visit our student finance page using the link below for information on tuition fees and student loans, as well as non-repayable grants, bursaries and scholarships, eligible to different groups, to support with study costs.

MRes Bursary

You may be eligible for a £1,000 bursary to support your research project. Please visit our finance page for more details.

Below you'll find extra costs associated with studying this course, as well as costs associated with living and extra-curricular activities that might be of interest.

Clothing and footwear (circa £100)

A number of modules require clothing and footwear suitable to wear outdoors when working with animals, eg. long trousers and boots.

Hartpury University branded clothing is also available through our online shop, for those who wish to purchase it. However, this is not essential.

Optional field trip (up to circa £1,500)

The optional module Wildlife Conflict – optional at all levels – offers a field trip to South Africa to study conflicts that arise between local populations and wildlife and how these are positively managed. Places are limited.

Accommodation and living costs

Please visit our student accommodation page for details.

A leading UK university for animal degrees

Our lecturers are among the best in the field. Many are producing cutting-edge research that’s influencing best practice across industry, with interests ranging from conservation to canine training to human-animal relationships in zoos.

Solving prickly problems

Hedgehogs hold a special place in the nation's hearts but, despite its popularity, the species are endangered as a result of urbanisation.

The good news is that hedgehogs have experts like Hartpury’s researcher Dr. Lucy Bearman-Brown to champion their cause.

Lucy and her team are finding innovative ways to track, locate and move the treasured species to safe spots, away from potential harm.

Get in touch

We would love to hear from you, so please get in touch. You can ask a specific question or simply pop your details in to be kept up-to-date with news and events.

Important information

Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of our published course information, however our programmes are reviewed and developed regularly. Changes or cancellation of courses may be necessary to ensure alignment with emerging employment areas, to comply with accrediting body requirements, revisions to subject benchmark statements or as a result of student feedback. We reserve the right to make necessary changes and will notify all offer-holders of changes as and when they occur.