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  • Examine and communicate the importance of animal welfare to academic and other audiences
  • Programme partly based on the theoretical syllabus required for the European and US animal welfare qualifications for veterinarians
  • Learn from highly qualified, enthusiastic and internationally renowned teachers 

Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law at Winchester critically reflects upon contemporary uses of animals, and provides the academic skills and expertise needed to protect animals and advance their welfare. Winchester is a world leader in terms of the values held and discussed, such as compassion and social justice, which are central to the ethos of this course. 

You consider animal rights and the ethics around using animals for food, sport, and scientific research. How should society reflect those rights and ethics in our law-making and public policies? We scrutinise the many forms of animal use in different settings, such as farming, transportation and slaughter, laboratories, homes, zoos and various other entertainment locales, and about free-ranging animals in natural environments. As you progress through the programme, you master the skills and knowledge involved in assessing and ensuring the welfare of animals using a range of data and sound scientific processes.

The course is different from other comparable programmes in part because of the range of animals covered, including wild, free-ranging animals, invertebrates, pest animals, and the welfare problems associated with them. You are encouraged to develop communication skills in a range of styles, including posters, blogs, and multimedia presentations, and to share ideas about animal welfare outside of the academic setting. 

Modules include Animals and Society, Animal Interests, Capacities and Ethical Considerations, Animal Behaviour and Psychological States, and a 15,000-word dissertation on your chosen topic. Classes are taught using the online virtual learning platform, in the form of core notes with additional readings, videos and lecture notes, making this course accessible to students anywhere in the world. 

Graduates work as animal behaviourists, within animal welfare and advocacy organisations, zoos, sanctuaries and other organisations requiring knowledge of animal management and welfare, with governmental departments working on animal issues, with agencies aiming to uphold welfare standards, and with commercial organisations seeking to introduce such standards to their agricultural suppliers.


For any veterinarians pursuing specialist qualifications in animal welfare, this programme is partly based on the theoretical syllabus required for the European and US qualifications.


Graduates may enter careers within animal advocacy, welfare and conservation organisations; zoos, sanctuaries and other organisations requiring knowledge of animal management and welfare; governmental departments working on animal issues; assurance, inspection and enforcement agencies; and commercial organisations seeking to implement and monitor the animal welfare standards of their agricultural suppliers.

Pre-approved for a Masters

If you study a Bachelor Honours degrees with us, you will be pre-approved to start a Masters degree at Winchester. To be eligible, you will need to apply by the end of March in the final year of your degree and meet the entry requirements of your chosen Masters degree.


Suitable for applicants from:

UK, EU, World

Learning and teaching

Modules are taught using online core notes with additional readings, videos and lecture notes provided. Students may participate in online seminars, and are guided in the creation of communication media such as academic and popular publications, Powerpoint and poster presentations, and online blogs.

The academics involved in this programme possess specialist skills and knowledge in each of the realms of animal welfare science, animal ethics and animal law. Strengths include significant experience in examining and critiquing contemporary social uses of animals, through both academic and popular media, and in working within both Non-Governmental Organisations and professional realms such as veterinary and legal practice, to advance animal welfare within wider society. Tutorials and other support is offered by these highly qualified, enthusiastic and internationally renowned scholars.


This programme is distance learning only.


Our validated courses may adopt a range of means of assessing your learning. An indicative, and not necessarily comprehensive, list of assessment types you might encounter includes essays, portfolios, supervised independent work, presentations, written exams, or practical performances.

Assessments include written assignments, Powerpoint and poster presentations, online blogs, participation in discussions, and a 15,000-word dissertation on a topic of interest to the student, chosen in consultation with a supervisor.

We ensure all students have an equal opportunity to achieve module learning outcomes. As such, where appropriate and necessary, students with recognised disabilities may have alternative assignments set that continue to test how successfully they have met the module's learning outcomes. Further details on assessment types used on the course you are interested in can be found on the course page, by attending an Open Day or Open Evening, or contacting our teaching staff.


We are committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to you on your academic progress and achievement in order to enable you to reflect on your progress and plan your academic and skills development effectively. You are also encouraged to seek additional feedback from your course tutors.

Further information

For more information about our regulations for this course, please see our Academic Regulations, Policies and Procedures.



Normally a recent first or upper second-class Honours degree incorporating a related subject in the life or health sciences or humanities, or professional experience in the area of study (for example, within animal welfare charities, the veterinary profession, or as a Council Animal Welfare Officer).

If English is not your first language: IELTS 6.0 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in writing or equivalent.

Personal Computing Requirements

Due to the Distance Learning deliverance of the course there are minimum personal computing requirements. Please view the Distance Learning Policy.

Course enquiries and applications

Telephone: +44 (0) 1962 827234
Send us a message

International students

International students seeking additional information about this programme can email or call +44 (0) 1962 827023

Applications need to be submitted before the 31 May 2021. Late applications can be accepted throughout the remainder of the application year, for more information see our How to Apply section.

Visit us

Explore our campus and find out more about studying at Winchester by coming to one of our Open Evenings.

Year 1 (Level 7)

Modules Credits

Animals and Society 20

Animals occupy diverse social roles. They are variously companions, resources for food and fibre, laboratory tools, objects of entertainment, seen as ‘pests’, or as ‘wild’ animals, perhaps in need of conservation and protection – and in some cases, all at once! This module reviews the social positioning of different animals over time and in different cultures, and explores the rise of animal welfare and animal rights as major social concerns and controversies today. It explores classical and contemporary theories about animals and society and draws on a range of perspectives and themes to ask questions about human nonhuman animal relations. Important contemporary and emerging animal welfare issues – including some of international concern – will be examined. The module provides a forum in which the issues can be debated and subjected to scrutiny. Students will develop a sound understanding of the main conceptualisations of animal ethics and animal welfare, and will gain the skills needed to rigorously assess the latter. They will explore the interests and responsibilities toward animals of diverse stakeholder groups, and will develop an understanding of important associated legislation and policies that affect animals internationally. Advice will also be provided about careers within governmental and non-governmental organisations, those involved with the management of animals in various settings, the veterinary sector, and others.

Animal Interest, Capacities and Ethical Considerations 20

Scientific advances in fields such as animal cognition, ethology and communication have increasingly revealed a diverse array of characteristics that are potentially morally relevant. Increasing numbers of species are revealing remarkable abilities that are changing the way we view animals – and that have profound implications for the ways in which we treat them. This module reviews characteristics such as sentience, consciousness, psychological states, social and communicative abilities. Students will explore differences in the way animals have been viewed at various points in time, and by various cultures. They will also gain expertise at conducting robust quality of life assessments.


Animal Behaviour and Psychological States 20

How do we know fish feel pain? How do we know when animals are stressed? Questions like these are key to considerations of the moral status of animals, and to evaluations of their welfare. In this module students will explore in detail the mechanisms underlying pain perception in mammals and certain other species. They will gain an understanding of the variations that occur at certain life stages and in various pathological states. They will learn to robustly assess pain, as well as stress, utilising a variety of physiological and behavioural indicators. They will explore the changing considerations relating to affective states, and the significance and welfare applications of frameworks such as the Five Freedoms. They will also explore key concepts associated with motivation and behaviour, and will explore the causes of, and corrective strategies appropriate for, some of the most common behavioural problems encountered in domesticated species.

Animal Welfare Issues I 20

This module explores some of the most important animal welfare issues internationally. Issues such as intensive farming of chickens and pigs are explored, as well as the welfare impacts experienced by high-producing animals such as modern dairy cows. Their transportation by land, sea and air are considered, as is their slaughter by both conventional and religious methods. The tensions between religious slaughter and animal welfare are explored, as are other forms of animal killing, including mass depopulation in disease outbreaks, hunting and other killing of free-ranging animals, and euthanasia. We also explore the use of animals and alternatives within scientific research, pharmaceutical and product testing, and life and health sciences education, and cutting-edge research and production methods such as genetic modification, cloning and embryo transfer. The interests of various stakeholder groups are explored, as are the application of utilitarian and deontological methods to the formulation of relevant social policy. Mechanisms for implementing such policies are reviewed, including quality assurance schemes, legislation and Codes of Conduct.

Animal Welfare Issues II 20

This module explores a range of interesting and, in some cases, very controversial, animal welfare issues. Animals are pervasive throughout our societies as companions, where they may be much-loved. And yet, their welfare is often poorer than we realise. This module explores a range of associated issues, and will equip students to provide advice aimed at rectifying the most common behavioural problems seen in domesticated animals. Students will also learn about the links between animal abuse and violence toward people, and will explore the role of forensics in shedding light on animal abuse cases. Students will also learn about the animal welfare concerns associated with the use of animals in zoos, exhibitions, circuses, competitions, fights, and other forms of entertainment, including hunting, angling and whaling. Finally, they will explore key global issues affecting animals, including climate change and biodiversity loss, and will also explore the adverse environmental impacts of the livestock sector, and strategies for mitigating those impacts.

Research Preparation and Development 20

The module is designed to ensure that students have a comprehensive knowledge of the research methods that are available coupled with an appreciation of current concerns associated with methodological approaches and research innovation in their area of specialist interest in animal welfare.  The aim is to enable students to make an informed choice about the methodology and approach most suitable for their project. As the module progresses students will develop an understanding of a range of data collection and data analysis techniques and will consider the relationship between ethics and research.  Being able to execute an effective piece of research is based in a robust research design which is informed by knowledge about various approaches and an engagement with previous research.  Research design is a key element of the module.  Transferable skills associated with engaging with, synthesising and offering a critique of information as well as communicating research effectively are essential to this module. 

Dissertation 60

This module provides students with the opportunity to undertake in-depth, independent study in a topic of interest related to Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law. Apart from gaining considerable expertise in the chosen topic, students will develop and demonstrate skills in the conception and design of such a research project. Research may involve non-invasive empirical research on human or animal subjects following ethical approval, or may be based entirely on academic literature and appropriate other resources. Students will develop and demonstrate expertise in the systematic analysis of complex and potentially controversial issues, and in written communication in a format and style appropriate for publication within an academic journal. Students will receive guidance during the development of their project proposals, and the formulation of their dissertations.

Please note the modules listed are correct at the time of publishing, for full-time students entering the programme in Year 1. Optional modules are listed where applicable. Please note the University cannot guarantee the availability of all modules listed and modules may be subject to change. For further information please refer to the terms and conditions at
The University will notify applicants of any changes made to the core modules listed above.

Progression from one level of the programme to the next is subject to meeting the University’s academic regulations.

2021 Course Tuition Fees

UK/Channel Islands and Isle of Man

Full-time entry | £6,800
Part-time entry | £3,400 p/a

Total Cost | £6,800

International Students*

Distance Learning only:

Full-time entry | £6,800
Part-time entry | £3,400 p/a

Total Cost | £6,800

*Please note, the tuition fees for students from the EU (excluding UK and Republic of Ireland) are yet to be confirmed by the University.


As one of our students, all of your teaching and assessments are included in your tuition fees, including, lectures/guest lectures and tutorials, seminars, laboratory sessions and specialist teaching facilities. You will also have access to a wide range of student support and IT services. 

There might be additional costs you may encounter whilst studying. The following highlights the mandatory and optional costs for this course:


Core Texts

Some Core Texts are available from the University Library; however some students prefer to purchase their own copies. Core Texts can be bought second hand, or as an ebook which can often reduce this cost. Indicative cost is £100-£200. 


Printing and Binding

The University is pleased to offer our students a free printing allowance of £20 each academic year. This will print around 500 A4 mono pages. If students wish to print more, printer credit can be topped up by the student. The University and Student Union are champions of sustainability and we ask all our students to consider the environmental impact before printing. Our Reprographics team also offer printing and binding services, including dissertation binding which may be required by your course with an indicative coast of £1.50-£3.


We have a variety of scholarship and bursaries available to support you financially with the cost of your course. To see if you’re eligible, please see our Scholarships and Awards.  

Key course details

Full-time: 1 year; Part-time: 2 or 3 years
Typical offer
Normally a recent first or upper second-class Honours degree
Distance learning only