School of Biological and Marine Sciences

BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare

Are you passionate about understanding animal behaviour and applying this knowledge to improve welfare? Do you want to explore the evolution of behaviour in a variety of species? Applying an understanding of animal needs and health, you consider the many aspects of animal welfare, including an examination of the legal and ethical frameworks that safeguard welfare. You also undertake practical work, conducting behavioural and welfare assessment studies, gaining the skills sought by employers.

In the 2018 National Student Survey, 90% of students felt staff on this course were good at explaining things; 87% felt that the staff made the subject interesting and 90% found the course intellectually stimulating.

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Key features

  • You will build a strong foundation in the fundamental science that underpins the study and understanding of behaviour and welfare - including ecology, evolution, microbiology, physiology, nutrition, health and disease. You will then build onto this with in-depth study of behaviour, welfare and their links in your second and final years of study.
  • You will take part in residential field courses in South Devon and the Netherlands, allowing you to develop and apply the understanding you gain through lectures and to study animal behaviour in both wild and captive settings - the latter including zoos and agricultural settings.
  • You will benefit from our collaborations with Dartmoor Zoo, Paignton Zoo, Newquay Zoo, the Donkey Sanctuary and National Marine Aquarium, which enable a number of field-trips throughout your course to look at captive animal behaviour, welfare, conservation and rehabilitation.
  • You will have opportunity to boost your employability by taking a Placement Year between your second and final years of study, working in the industry, anywhere in the world - you can read more about this in the 'course details' section of this page.
  • You can broaden your horizons by taking your second year at one of a range of universities overseas offered in our Year Abroad scheme.
  • You will be supported pastorally and academically by a Personal Tutor throughout your studies, and will have regular 1:1 meetings to discuss your progress formally.
  • You will interact with and be lectured by academic staff who are research-active and well regarded in their fields.
  • You will undertake self-study throughout your course, using our well-equipped Library and range of online scientific journals, as well as LABPlus, our unique laboratory and resource centre designed for science and engineering students, which will provide you with flexible workspace, computing facilities, specialist software and bioinformatic applications, access to microscopes, cameras and bespoke resources designed by academic staff to support specific modules as well as more general self-study.

Course details

  • Year 1
  • In your first year, you will learn the core skills and fundamental science required to be able to study animal behaviour and welfare, since it is critical when working in these fields to have a strong understanding of the underlying science. You will study evolution, behaviour, physiology, microbiology and ecology, whilst developing your skills in experimental design and interpretation. You will understand the importance of statistical analyses in behavioural studies and will be able to perform fundamental data analyses. You will gain these skills and through a mix of lectures, tutorials and laboratory practicals. You will also undertake a field trip to Slapton Ley in South Devon, where you will study the ecology and behaviour of organisms in the wild and in an agricultural setting - this is included in your tuition fees.
    Core modules
    • BIOL129Z Professional Development in Biological Sciences 1

      Skills in fieldwork, e.g. in identification, or in the laboratory, e.g. in liquid handling, are an important aspect of any biology degree, and can contribute to the employability of graduates. The purpose of this module is to track the progressive acquisition of a range of basic field, laboratory and transferable skills of relevance to each degree programme, and delivered in the other Level 4 modules.

    • BIOL131Z Cells: The Building Blocks of Life

      The cell is the basic building block of life. This module introduces you to the structure of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and the cell biology that allow different cells to do different things including some highly specialised cells of multicellular organisms. The module will then focus on the molecular basis that underlies cell function introducing you to the metabolic pathways and molecules that allow cells to work.

    • BIOL132Z Ecology and the Diversity of Life

      This module introduces the fundamental principles of ecology and the diversity of life. It examines patterns of life on Earth, past and present, and how an understanding of these supports efforts to conserve biodiversity and manage resources sustainably. The module also provides an overview of the domains of life on Earth, introducing the remarkable variety of organisms with which we share the planet.

    • BIOL133Z Principles of Physiology

      This module is an introduction to the fundamental principles of comparative physiology, and the structure and function of the body systems of plants and fungi as well as animals. The module also introduces the concept of environmental physiology, how organisms respond to their environment.

    • BIOL134Z Introduction to Animal Behaviour and Welfare

      This module is designed to give you some fundamental basic skills and information to help you start to become a scientist specializing in animal behaviour and welfare. The module will cover data and information gathering, data handling and analysis, and data evaluation and presentation. Much of the module will be based around field and/or laboratory activities, providing you with the data you will use for subsequent analysis and presentation.

    • BIOL136Z Behaviour and Ecology Field Biology

      This module provides an introduction to basic natural history, including identification of key groups of plants and animals. It allows students to explore how the environment can impact animal behaviour, distribution and welfare. The module introduces learners to the systematic collection of scientific data in the field, and apply their knowledge to the design of a field research study.

    • MBIO161Z Evolution and Behaviour

      Covers the principles underpinning evolution with a special focus on animal behaviour as adaptive traits. Module covers concepts of the genetic basis of inheritance, population genetics, selection, adaptation, function, fitness and speciation. We will use key examples and practical classes to illustrate key ideas and consider the development of some of the ideas in a historical context.

  • Year 2
  • In your second year, you will understand the factors that influence how and when animals interact with one another and with their environment. You will develop a deeper understanding of animal physiology and metabolism, and how it can be applied to promote health, reproduction and growth in a range of animal species. You will develop your understanding of experimental design and data analysis, building on material covered in your first year. You will be able to interpret studies published in the scientific literature and will be able to compare and contrast your data with those of other studies. You will undertake a second field trip, this time to the Netherlands, where you will study welfare and behaviour of animals in a wide range of zoos, allowing you to study a range of exotics in a captive settings, as well as being able to compare different philosophies and practices in animal husbandry, and their impacts on welfare and behaviour. Like your first year field trip, this is included in your tuition fees.

    You can alternatively undertake your second year at one of a selection of overseas universities through our Year Abroad scheme. When you return, you  will go straight into your final year, so you degree still takes 3 years overall.
    Core modules
    • BIOL205Z Animal Behaviour

      The module addresses why animals behave in a particular way and the methodology involved in studying them. This involves understanding the causation, development, function and evolution of behaviour. We will also discuss how this knowledge might be applied in practical situations.

    • BIOL215Z Methods in Behaviour and Conservation

      Using programme specific activity this module will equip students to perform laboratory and field studies in biological sciences using appropriate methods with regard to safety and risk assessment. The students will also learn to use methods of experimental design and data analysis.

    • BIOL224Z Animal Behaviour and Welfare Field Course

      A residential field course will provide students with the opportunity to engage in a number of observational animal welfare based projects. Projects will be largely focused on animal welfare in relation to the animals' physical, behavioural and social environment.

    • BIOL225Z Professional Development in Biological Sciences 2

      Skills in fieldwork or in the laboratory, as well as other transferable skills, e.g. in data handling, are an important aspect of any biology degree, and can contribute to the employability of graduates. The purpose of this module is to track the continued acquisition of a range of field, laboratory and transferable skills of relevance to each degree programme, and delivered in the other Level 5 modules.

    • BIOL226Z Animal Ecophysiology

      We will investigate the life history and associated normal physiological processes in animals and examine how the environment, including pathogens, affect development, survival and reproduction of animals.

    • BIOL227Z Animal Health and Welfare

      This module explores the complex interactions between animals and their environment (particularly in captivity), and considers their physiology, health and welfare. It also addresses the husbandry needs and disease prevention considerations for captive animals.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL204Z Principles of Conservation Biology

      Successful conservation is dependent on a thorough grasp of fundamental biological principles. The conceptual aspects of population, molecular, & evolutionary ecology which are central to understanding the dynamics of, and future threats to, extant populations of organisms are reviewed.

    • BIOL232Z Comparative Zoology

      This module will immerse students in traditional comparative zoology, developing a deep understanding of the morphology, development, and taxonomy of a wide range of vertebrate and invertebrate groups. Students will focus on the evolution of definitive morphological and physiological features within each group, including examples from both extant and extinct taxa.

  • Optional Placement Year
  • Many of our students carry out an optional placement year between their second and final years. You can undertake either two 3 month work placements or one 6 month placement, though many of our students opt to spent up to 12 months at their placement provider. You will be supported by a Placement Adviser - a member of academic staff from the School - who will act as your point of contact with the University. Examples of placement providers that our students have been based at in the past include the UK Wolf Conservation Trust, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust (Jersey) and the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB, South Africa) - placements are commonly taken both in the UK and overseas and provide an excellent opportunity to expand your horizons and strengthen your transferable skills, ready for the job market.

    Given the opportunities a Placement Year gives and the positive impact it brings to employability, we strongly encourage all students to give serious consideration to undertaking a Placement Year.
    Core modules
    • APIE303 Biology:Placement

      All students on our degrees have the option of undertaking a (minimum of 6 month) work placement at a company or university anywhere in the world undertaking some kind of work (usually research-based) relating to their programme of study.

  • Final year
  • In your final year of study, you will study a core module in animal welfare and ethics, as well as a selection from a range of optional modules, allowing you to specialise in behavioural ecology, applied conservation biology, animals and society, and animal nutrition. You will also study our Advanced Skills and Concepts module, within which you will select three 'podules', allowing you to specialise in key practical-focused areas that have been developed to give you industry-relevant skills not typically found within undergraduate programmes. In common with all honours degrees in the UK, a major part of your final year is your research project, in which you will apply the skills and understanding you have developed through your studies to a piece of research, supervised by a member of academic staff. 
    Core modules
    • BIOL307Z Advanced Skills and Concepts

      Students will select from a catalogue of short, intensive courses relating to biology, developing skills and concepts to an advanced level. The courses offered will be focused on developing the students' skills sets and career aspirations, enhancing student employability.

    • BIOL313Z Animal Welfare and Ethics

      The scientific meaning of animal welfare and the way that it can be assessed in terms of the physiology, behaviour and immunology of the animal will be examined in detail. The impact of public perception of animal welfare on the management of animals by humans in a variety of contexts will be discussed.

    • BIOL315Z Personal Research

      The largest component of the module comprises a research study element that incorporates the design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data. Other elements include a conduct of study component and a communicating science element. Students will also complete a comprehensive introduction to the research report that incorporates a brief literature review of the topic that addresses wider issues of relevance to their field of research study.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL308Z Applied Conservation Biology

      Focuses on application of biological theory to successfully managing populations in wild and captive environments. The emphasis is on how theory feeds into and informs working practice. Along with advancing their theoretical knowledge, students develop knowledge of the major approaches, analytical tools, techniques and software that individuals working in the public and private conservation sectors apply in practice.

    • BIOL319Z Animals and Society

      In a world where impacts of human activity are increasing this module seeks to engage learners in a dialogue that promotes exploration and understanding of human perceptions of animals and their worth. In particular it explores the sociological development of our notional obligations and ideologies as they relate to animal protection and use, and wider global issues that impact upon our abilities to manage such notions.

    • BIOL320Z Animal Nutrition

      This module examines the principles and practice of animal nutrition for a range of animal species. It provides an understanding of feds, feed evaluation, diet formulation and feeding. The module also examines the impact of ingredient, physical, manufacturing and legal constraints on the production of diets.

    • MBIO317Z Behavioural Ecology

      This module examines the theory underpinning key conceptual models in behavioural ecology (e.g. optimal foraging, ideal free distribution, game theory). These models will be critically discussed in relation to empirical studies.

Every undergraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the course aims, the course structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest course structure and may be subject to change:

BSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare programme specification 4174

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

Entry requirements

UCAS tariff

112 - 128

To include A level Biology and a second relevant subject (Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Environmental Science or Environmental Studies, Applied Science, Marine Science, Psychology, Science in Society, Use of Maths) at grade C.

For candidates that do not have a second science subject at A level, please contact: admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.

BTEC National Diploma/QCF Extended Diploma/RQF National Extended Diploma in Applied Science: 128-144 points (DDM-DDD) - note that this is subject to the exact modules you have studied - please contact admissions@plymouth.ac.uk, stating explicitly the full list of modules within your qualification.

International Baccalaureate 30 diploma points overall, to include 5 diploma points in Biology (Higher Level) plus 5 diploma points in second science at Higher Level. English and Mathematics must be included.

Access To Higher Education Science-based diplomas, 33 credits in science-based units at merit including a minimum of 12 credits in biology units.

We would usually expect GCSE English and Mathematics at grade C / 4, or equivalent.

For a full list of all acceptable qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.

English language requirements

For candidates that do not have traditional qualifications, our BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences with Foundation Year course provides a route onto this degree.

Please note that we do interview some applicants for this programme, at the Admissions Tutor's discretion. 

Fees, costs and funding

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated Brexit webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

New Student 2019 2020
Home/EU £9,250 To be confirmed
International £13,400 To be confirmed
Part time (Home/EU) To be confirmed To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per a number of credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances.

Additional costs

This course is delivered by the Faculty of Science and Engineering and more details of any additional costs associated with the faculty's courses are listed on the following page: Additional fieldwork and equipment costs.

Undergraduate scholarships for international students

To reward outstanding achievement the University of Plymouth offers scholarship schemes to help towards funding your studies.

Find out whether you are eligible and how you can apply

How to apply

All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service).

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code.

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

Intercalating students wishing to apply for the final year of this course should complete a direct entry form.

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.

Optional work placement and international study

You have the option to take up an approved work placement year as part of your degree course

Upon successful completion you will gain the Certificate of Professional or Work Experience.

Find out more about placements and international study

Lianne Ottewell – BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare graduate

Find something you love and pursue it. This is what I did. This is my story of how my passion for animals as a child grew into a fulfilling career that allows me to help rescued bears across the world.
Find out more about Lianne's moon bear rescue tale

Danielle Farah – BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare graduate

Danielle Farah has worked with penguins in South Africa and the United Arab Emirates before becoming the head bird keeper at Bournemouth Oceanarium.
Read more about Danielle's journey since graduating

Fieldwork

You will visit some of the most interesting zoos and environmental parks in Europe

Our field courses are designed specifically for animal behaviour and welfare students.

Find out about our fieldwork

Additional fieldwork and equipment costs

This course includes residential fieldwork. Typically, where the fieldwork is a compulsory part of the course, transport, accommodation and the majority of food costs are paid by the Faculty.

Some courses offer alternative or optional field courses with an additional cost.

Find out more information

Animal behaviour and welfare careers

Jobs after graduation

See where a degree in animal behaviour and welfare can take you.

Find out more about careers

Potential High Achievers Scheme

In the School of Biological and Marine Sciences we are passionate and committed to both teaching and research and we are looking for talented and motivated students to share in this passion for biology in all its forms. We know that our applicants will thrive in the hands-on environment we can provide, and we want to ensure our best applicants become our future.

The scheme has been running since September 2018 and is now open for students who have applied to study a range of full-time undergraduate courses across the biological sciences subject areas. We will be contacting applicants who are not only on course to achieve top marks but who have an outstanding personal statement, in order to offer them a chance to receive an unconditional offer immediately.

Find out more about the scheme.

People

This course has been accredited by the Royal Society of Biology following an independent and rigorous assessment. Accredited degree programmes contain a solid academic foundation in biological knowledge and key skills, and prepare graduates to address the needs of employers. The accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates from accredited programmes meet defined sets of learning outcomes, including subject knowledge, technical ability and transferable skills.