School of Biological and Marine Sciences

BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare

Are you passionate about understanding animal behaviour and applying it to improve welfare? Do you want to understand the evolution of behaviour across a range of organisms? Applying an understanding of animal health and metabolism, you will understand a broad range of aspects of behaviour and welfare. Designing and carrying out behavioural studies in a range of settings - working within legal frameworks to protect welfare - and analysing your data, you will gain skills sought by employers.

In the 2016 National Student Survey, 96% of students felt staff on this course were good at explaining things; 96% felt that the staff made the subject interesting; 96% found the course intellectually stimulating and 83% were satisfied with the course overall.

Other courses like BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour and Welfare


Eye spots on the tail feathers of the Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus L., false colour image). The male of this species is widely known for its train of elongated tail feathers, raised and displayed in courtship behaviour. Darwin's theory of sexual selection was born from his confusion regarding the ungainly tail of P. cristatus, that did not fit his theory of natural selection or survival of the fittest, since he was unable to see a direct benefit to the survival of the species based on the tail feathers.

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
    • BIOL119 Introduction to Biology

      You will undertake an intensive 4-week induction to your future as an independent biologist, working alongside all first year students in the School. You will gain core transferable skills in searching for and reading scientific literature; study design; data evaluation, interpretation and presentation; academic writing and oral presentations. You will undertake field/laboratory activities relevant to your degree programme during this module to gather data for your assessments.

    • BIOL121 Animal Physiology and Microbiology

      You will gain an understanding of key fundamentals and principals of animal physiology, including links between structure, function and environment. You will explore the ecophysiology and importance of microorganisms, including their role in global biogeochemical cycles and their interactions with other organisms.

    • BIOL122 Behaviour and Ecology

      You will develop an understanding of the fundamental aspects of behaviour and ecology, including the mechanisms, development and evolution of animal behaviour, and learning to apply these concepts to the scientific study of behaviour. You will examine patterns of life on Earth past and present and will understand how to apply this to the conservation of biodiversity and the management of resources.

    • BIOL126 Animal Behaviour Field Biology

      In a field setting at Slapton Ley, South Devon, you will explore natural history, including the identification of key groups of vertebrates and invertebrates and will gain an understanding of how environment impacts upon behaviour. You will be introduced to the collection of scientific data in the field and the application of knowledge of behaviour, natural history and the environment to conducting field research.

    • BIOL127 Evolution

      You will be introduced to core concepts of evolution, working from the fundamentals of DNA structure and function in relation to inheritance ranging from genome to individual to individual to population and exploring taxonomic groupings such as species. You will explore patterns of biodiversity that evolutionary processes have given rise to - both in terms of the fossil record and the present day.

    • BIOL129 Professional Development in Biological Sciences 1

      This module runs alongside your other modules in the first year of study, and captures and tracks the skills that you will develop during your other modules - namely those that are highly sought by employers across the biological sciences, including both field work and laboratory work.

    Optional modules
    • AINT153PP Intelligent Systems

      Topics covered within this module are selected to be inspirational demonstrators that showcase research topics in the field of Intelligent Systems and provide `hands-on¿ involvement in a lecture/practical setting. This module is suitable both for students form technical degrees (e.g. computer science, robotics, mathematics) and for students from psychology, business and social sciences.

    • BIOL124PP Biology of Sex

      This module will introduce you to the following topics; the evolution of sex, competition for mates, sperm competition, mate choice, sex & disease and other elements of the biology of sex. Each week will start with a discussion of the main areas of exciting research on that topic, across a range of species including humans. Students will then develop their learning in supervised workshops.

    • BIOL125PP Scientific Method and Ethics in Biology

      This module explores how modern scientific research is conducted; the importance of professional ethics in science, based on principles of rigour, respect and responsibility; the essential elements of effective science communication; and the development of critical scientific thinking involving graphical, numerical and statistical approaches. It includes examples of reliable (`good') and unreliable (`bad') science.

  • 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
    • BIOL205 Animal Behaviour

      You will understand why animals behave in a particular way and the methodology involved in studying them. You will understand causation, development, function and evolution of animal behaviour, along with the means of applying these to practical situations.

    • BIOL215 Methods in Behaviour and Conservation

      You will be equipped to carry out a range of laboratory and field studies using appropriate methods and taking into account health and safety through the medium of hazard and risk assessments. You will gain an understanding of experimental design, data handling and analysis.

    • BIOL224 Animal Behaviour and Welfare Field Course

      In a field setting in the Netherlands, you will engage in a number of observational animal welfare assessments focusing on welfare in relation to the physical, behavioural and social environment in four different zoological establishments.

    • BIOL226 Animal Ecophysiology

      You will examine the life history and associated normal physiological processes in vertebrates and will examine how disease, environmental stressors, nutrition, and physiological dysfunction impact health, survival, growth and reproduction.

    • BIOL227 Animal Health and Welfare

      You will explore the complex interactions between animals and their environment, considering physiology, health and welfare, as well as the health and safety of humans working with them. The welfare and husbandry of animals is considered in the context of captive and wild animals and livestock production systems.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL204 Principles of Conservation Biology

      You will understand core biological principles that are central to successful conservation. The conceptual aspects of population, molecular and evolutionary ecology will be explored, along with their role in understanding the dynamics of and threats to extant populations of organisms.

    • BIOL229 Neurobiology and Behaviour

      You will develop an understanding of neural structures, from individual neurons to gross neuroanatomy. You will understand how brain systems underpin behaviour and cognition including how neurobiological malfunction results in psychopathologies.

  • 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
    • BIOL307 Advanced Skills and Concepts

      You will select 3 'podules' - short courses of study that revolve around a particular set of advanced skills or concepts not typically found in undergraduate programmes but often highly desired by employers. In each 'podule', you will be assessed both in the form of coursework (usually addressing the conceptual basis) and in a practical assessment of your ability to carry out a particular method.

    • BIOL313 Animal Welfare and Ethics

      You will understand the scientific meaning of 'welfare' and the ways that it can be assessed in terms of physiology, behaviour, immunology etc. The impact of public perceptions of animal welfare on the management of animals by humans in a variety of contexts will be central to your understanding of this subject.

    • BIOL315 Personal Research

      You will undertake a lab or field-based research project relevant to your programme of study, supervised by a member of academic staff. Projects are open-ended research in an area usually dictated to some extent by the research interests of the supervisor. You will undertake a period of study gathering and interpreting data, and will write this up in the form of a manuscript for a scientific journal. You will also present your data at a poster presentation at the end of the academic year.

    Optional modules
    • BIOL308 Applied Conservation Biology

      You will focus on the application of biological theory to the management of populations of wild and captive animals. You will understand how theory feeds into, and informs, practice, whilst developing knowledge of the major approaches, analytical tools and techniques, and software used in the public and private conservation sectors.

    • BIOL319 Animals and Society

      You will explore and understand human perceptions of animals and their worth. You will understand the sociological development of obligations and ideologies, and how they relate to animal protection and use, alongside wider global issues that impact on our abilities to manage such notions.

    • BIOL320 Animal Nutrition

      You will understand the principles and practice of animal nutrition for a range of species. You will understand feeds and their evaluation, diet formulation and feeding methods. You will examine the impact of ingredient, physical, manufacturing and legal constraints on the production of feeds.

    • MBIO317 Behavioural Ecology

      You will understand the theory underpinning key conceptual models in behavioural ecology such as foraging, distribution and game theory. You will critically discuss and evaluate these models 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:

BScAnimalBehaviourAndWelfare ProgrammeSpecification September2017 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

120 - 128

To include grade B in A level Biology and a C in a second science (Environmental Science, Environmental Studies, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Psychology, Geography or Geology). For candidates that do not have a second science subject at A level, please contact: admissions@plymouth.ac.uk

18 Unit BTEC National Diploma/QCF Extended Diploma in Animal Management - 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.

Science-based Access To Higher Education 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) Biology with Foundation Year programme 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

New Student 2017 2018
Home/EU £9,250 To be confirmed
International £12,500 To be confirmed
Part time (Home/EU) Check with School To be confirmed
Part time (International) Check with School To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per a number of credits. Fees are correct at the time of publication and may be subject to change.

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

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

Field work

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 is now open for students who have applied to study, from September 2017, 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.