MSc, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate

Animal Welfare, Policy and Legislation

Typical offer: 2:1 honours degree (2:2 applicants considered individually)

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

Awarding body: Hartpury University

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Course overview

This exciting new online postgraduate degree has been designed to meet emerging animal welfare challenges linked to the UK legal system. You’ll apply theory to practice in real-world settings, enabling you to progress into a management role.

The animal welfare sector is diverse, covering everything from agriculture to pet shops and rescue centres to wildlife conservation - elements of legislative control are important to every area. As you progress into management positions, you’re likely to find yourself responsible for legal compliance, consultation or lobbying to produce new legislation.

A centre of excellence

This course will provide you with the expertise you need to navigate the legal system and improve welfare standards in your chosen area. You’ll learn from expert lecturers, many of whom are also industry professionals, actively engaged in legislation and policy development.

Alongside working with external organisations, students and staff gain insights from and influence welfare standards in our campus businesses – we’re home to animal therapy enterprises, equine livery and events centres, a commercial farm and over 70 different species.

Flexible online delivery

Online delivery makes this programme ideal, no matter where you live. Full and part-time pathways mean that you can study flexibly to fit around employment or other commitments. You'll have the opportunity to visit our campus in the spring to explore how theory applies to real-world practice in our animal settings.

UK Centre for Animal Law (A-Law) membership

As a student on this course, you'll benefit from complimentary student membership to A-Law through our university membership. The charity provides an extensive knowledge hub for global animal protection laws amongst lawyers, universities, animal protection groups and the wider public. You'll have access to professionals and resources to support your learning and career.

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

What you'll study

What you'll study


This online master’s degree focuses on how animal welfare is embedded and supported within the UK legal system. You’ll learn how legislation is developed, what it means when put into real-world contexts and how new scientific developments may change the way it is applied.

The focus of the degree is on UK legislation across a wide range of animal industries. You’ll develop important expertise to prepare you to succeed at higher management levels. You’ll understand the role of science in successful lobbying, how to critique this science in real-world practice, as well as how to develop strategies to overcome legislation barriers across different contexts.

A range of topics will cover important areas such as pain and nociception, perception and control of stress, sentience, motivation and emotions. From a human society perspective, you’ll also explore how our attitudes towards animals are influenced by philosophy, religion, politics and education, amongst other things.

Your dissertation provides an exciting opportunity for you to research a topic that matches your interests and career goals. Your project could be based on a sector within which you’re already employed or you could delve further into a new industry area.

Postgraduate Certificate

The Postgraduate Certificate includes modules focusing on the fundamentals of animal welfare and the UK legal system, alongside one specialist industry module. Please view the specific module breakdown for further details.

Postgraduate Diploma

The Postgraduate Diploma includes options of all specialist modules except the research-based dissertation. Please view the specific module breakdown for further details.


Below you’ll find the compulsory modules for the MSc course. If studying the PG Diploma or PG Certificate, you’ll 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

Examine the underpinning principles of animal welfare that inform policy and legislation decisions, both in terms of biological science and social science. You’ll explore stress, pain and nociception, motivation and sentience, both in terms of the underpinning biology and their outward interpretation.

You’ll also explore how attitudes towards animals are influenced by religious, cultural, political and philosophical beliefs and how they impact our interpretation of animal welfare measures.

Explore how policy and legislation is developed, enacted and reviewed whilst discussing the role that science plays in making changes and the challenges of enacting legislation in the real world.

This includes discussion of research methodologies and applications, as well as strengths, weaknesses and limitations of different methods.

Focus on the most relevant policies and legislative items that relate to agriculture and food production. These will include a range of topics such as transport, slaughter and disease control as well as looking at management of a variety of farmed species.

Explore zoological institutions as well as areas surrounding performance animals, pest control, population management and game rearing. This module will touch on important international legislation, such as CITES.

Explore the industries for companion animals and equines, covering a range of topics, from how animals are sourced (eg. pet shops and breeders) to their use in sporting disciplines, therapy animals, animals in education and military/police animals.

Examine the use of animals within scientific contexts, from research to authorisation and licensing of both human and veterinary medicines, and how animal use is justified through a cost-benefit framework.

Undertake a research project on a topic related to animal welfare, policy and legislation of your choosing.

Optional modules

There are no optional modules for students on the MSc.

Students on the PG Diploma will select a total of 75 credits from 5 of the following modules (see information above):

  • Regulating Agriculture and Food Production (15 credits)
  • Captive Exotics and Wildlife Policy and Law (15 credits)
  • Companion and Working Animal Regulations (15 credits)
  • Controls on the Use of Animals in Science (15 credits)
  • Postgraduate Independent Study (15 credits)

Students on the Postgraduate Certificate will select one of the following modules to study (see information above):

  • Regulating Agriculture and Food Production (15 credits)
  • Captive Exotics and Wildlife Policy and Law (15 credits)
  • Companion and Working Animal Regulations (15 credits)
  • Controls on the Use of Animals in Science (15 credits)

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.

The majority of this course will be delivered online so that you can study from wherever you live. You’ll also be given the opportunity to attend the campus in the spring, enabling you to experience our specialist facilities and debate topics in person with staff and fellow students. For the 2021-22 academic year, a typical week would involve online materials being released at the start of the week for students to engage with followed by online sessions at the end of the week with lecturers.

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 this qualification 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 needs, enabling you to complete your qualification in two or three years. Please enquire for further details.

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

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

The course is taught in English.

Contact learningPlacement learningIndependent learning
MSc degree12%0%88%
Postgraduate Diploma16%0%84%
Postgraduate Certificate16%0%84%

Teaching contact time and method will vary depending on the module that you are studying.

You’ll be assessed through a mixture of written and 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 in written form, with the option to discuss all feedback with academic staff.

Written examPractical examCoursework
MSc degree15%17%68%
Postgraduate Diploma22%13%65%
Postgraduate Certificate44%6%50%

This course is made up of three teaching blocks. Semesters normally consisting of 12 weeks of scheduled teaching and then assessment weeks, with an overview below:

  • For each module (except the dissertation) there will be an online activity session to be studied followed by an online face-to-face delivered session to support this activity.
  • Online materials will be released at the start of each week on a weekly basis for students to engage with.
  • Where possible, live online sessions with lecturers will be scheduled for a Friday each week.
  • In the spring semester there will be one weekend where students are invited on-site to engage in face-to-face activities. This is not compulsory, but will be a beneficial experience for students on this course.
  • Attendance dates and timetables are available before enrolment to support the arrangement of annual leave where required.


This applied master’s is focused on developing your understanding of how animal welfare concepts become embedded in legislation and how these apply to real-world settings.

Visiting lecturers

During the programme, you'll hear from a range of academic and industry professionals in lectures who are experts in their field. This will allow you to broaden your knowledge and develop your commercial networks whilst discussing real-world case studies.

Graduate destinations

This programme is well suited for people hoping to progress into higher management / supervisory positions in animal industries.

It would also allow for excellent routes into campaigns and lobbying departments of charities (eg. WAP, RSPCA) or professional bodies, as well as routes into education fields.


World-class facilities

This programme is delivered online. However, as a Hartpury University student, you’ll have access to a diverse range of facilities, as well as staff working in these facilities, many of which are newly built and world-class. You’ll also experience some of these facilities if you make the most of visiting us in the spring as part of your course.

Alongside lectures halls and workshop spaces, our facilities include:

Animal collection

Our Animal Collection includes a specialist reptile and aquatics facility, Walled Animal Garden complete with an aviary, and the paddocks. We have over 70 different species on campus, including meerkats, prairie dogs, skunks, rabbits, rodents, and tortoises. If you’re looking to further develop your skills, you can sign up for additional handling sessions with our academic team.

Canine and equine therapy centres

These commercial facilities provide an excellent opportunity for work placements and research projects. Gain experience working with real clients and understand how hydrotherapy, physiotherapy and other techniques can aid recovery from illness or injury, or manage fitness and weight in domestic species.

Equine Centre

With stabling for 230 horses, indoor and outdoor arenas and a cross country course the equine centre provides an opportunity to study equine behaviour, management and performance. We host over 200 equestrian events each year plus our own international competitions.


A range of specialist laboratories supporting animal microbiology, dissection, microscopy and animal health-related analysis.

Home Farm and Agri-Tech Centre

The farm houses cattle, sheep and pigs, under contract for a range of major food suppliers. You can complete volunteering and work experience, participating in lambing, calving, and milking, to enhance the learning in your course.

360-hectare estate

The Hartpury estate is home to a wide range of British wildlife species, on mixed commercial farmland. Recently, we’ve recorded badgers, foxes, hedgehogs, great crested newts, deer and at least four species of bat on campus.

Study spaces

Our University Learning Centre has books, journals, ebooks, computers and breakout study spaces. In addition, we have a study Lounge - 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


2:1 honours degree in a relevant subject. Students with 2:2 and relevant experience will be considered on a case by case basis.


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


In addition to the academic qualification an IELTS 6.5 or equivalent is required.

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.

Explore finance

Fees for MSc Animal Welfare Policy and Legislation are as follows:

Home: £6900

International: £9250

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.

Protecting pet vertebrates

We’re working with the RSPCA and University of Northampton on important research to help protect the reptiles and amphibians in our care.

It’s a common misconception that these pets are a niche interest but, in fact, they are among the most commonly kept group of companion animals in the UK. We’re investigating legislation issues around online trading, to help influence developments to protect these precious creatures.


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.

Dog in canine hydrotherapy pool

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.

*Reflects activities after 15 months for those who graduated in 2020.