MSc Animal Behaviour

Generations of natural selection. A lifetime of experience. Threats, sounds, hunger and more. Explore all the factors that shape animal behaviour – with a masters that can take you around the world.

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From evolutionary development to environmental stimuli, animal behaviour is shaped by a range of factors. This masters programme is your chance to explore them all – not only developing the theoretical principles of behaviour, but also learning how to harness these principles to tackle real-world animal welfare and conservation issues.

It’s an area that covers a diverse range of disciplines, from a strong numerical approach in the classroom, to a practical approach in the lab and in the field. While the course is built around a strong core of units, it also offers the flexibility to explore specialist areas, like conservation genetics or GIS.

Above all, this is a programme that offers the chance to study animal behaviour up close. As well as a field trip to Poland, Ecuador or Tanzania, your dissertation project could take you to Kenya, the Philippines or Mauritius (not to mention sites across the UK) for your research.

So, as well as expert analytical abilities and practical research techniques, you’ll leave us with an in-depth understanding of animals physiology, and how experience and environment combine to create behaviour – everything you need to pursue a range of career paths, from animal management to education or further research.

Non means-tested loans of up to a maximum of £10,000 will be available to postgraduate master's students - click here to find out more information

Features and Benefits

Career Prospects

This is a course that can open a wide range of career paths including animal management, pest control, teaching, environmental education and more. While it provides the skills and understanding you’ll need to take your first steps in this area, it’s also a valuable option if you’re already in a relevant role – with many students taking our masters courses as part of their professional development.

You’ll have careers support from the moment you join us, and for up to three years after you’ve finished our course. We have a variety of services to help you get started, from dedicated employability advisors to careers fairs and networking events.

By the time you leave us, you should be equipped to pursue a career with organisations like environmental consultancies, government research and advisory bodies, zoos and NGOs, or to continue your studies onto PhD level.

Learn more about graduate careers

Entry requirements

You’ll need a good UK honours degree – at least a 2:2 – or the international equivalent, in a relevant subject. We might also consider your application if you have several years’ professional experience in a related field.

International students please see

Overseas applicants will require IELTS with an overall score of 6.5 with no less than 5.5 in any category, or an equivalent accepted English qualification. Accepted English qualifications can be viewed here.

Course details

Whether you opt to study full or part time, you’ll cover a total of eight units – including your field course and dissertation project. As such, you’ll start off with core units exploring area like behavioural biology, statistical research and practical techniques.

It’s also a programme with the flexibility to delve into the specialist areas of the field that interest you most. You’ll have a choice between our Species Recovery unit or the Avian Biology and Conservation unit, as well as picking two option units including topics like Conservation and Sustainability or Organismal Genetics

You’ll take a field course unit, travelling to either Poland or Tanzania, while your final masters-level dissertation project could also involve international travel for gathering data and conducting research.

MSc student research projects

We are currently undertaking a number of research studies on:

Read the Biology Student blog: Carly Morris - Seal Research

Core units:

  • Behavioural Biology
  • Statistics and Research Design
  • Practical Techniques and Analysis
  • Field Course
  • Species Recovery OR Avian Biology and Conservation
  • Masters Project in Behaviour

Plus two options units from:

  • Topics in Conservation and Sustainability
  • Topics in Organismal Genetics
  • Earth Observation and GIS

Read more about this year of study

Core Units

Avian Biology and Conservation

This unit deals with the evolution, biology, and biogeography of birds and how evidence from these different research themes is utilised for avian conservation management. The unit will involve: an introduction to avian taxonomy and phylogeny; examination of the evolution of avian communication and life-history strategies; an introduction to avian biogeography and possible impacts of climate change and habitat modification; quantifying anthropogenic threats and avian extinction risk; human-avian population conflicts; and exploring possible solutions for applied avian conservation management such as habitat restoration schemes, agri-environment schemes and ecosystem services.

Behavioural Biology

This unit provides an overview of the contemporary study of animal behaviour and applied animal behaviour, together with detailed case studies. The unit prepares you for further study or employment in animal behaviour and related fields by providing experience of research design and scientific communication. The unit is underpinned by evolutionary thinking and the four levels of analysis Niko Tinbergen put forward for the study of Animal Behaviour, namely development (learning), mechanism (neurological and hormonal underpinnings), function (how does it help an individual survive and reproduce?) and evolution (how did it evolve?).

Masters Project

You will undertake a novel research project and develop your skills in research design, analysis and scientific communication. We will provide an extensive list of projects in the field, laboratory and in the UK and overseas; or if you have your own project idea, we can help you develop it.

Practical Techniques and Analysis

The unit will provide an introduction to the techniques of data collection and analysis which are appropriate to the different MSc courses which we offer. They will be a mix of standard but essential methods and the more modern approaches based on new technology and bespoke methods of analysis. Students will be assessed in one of these techniques but can attend others, subject to space and timetabling. 

Statistics and Research Design

This unit instructs students how to design specific studies and correctly interpret research output. the unit introduces a broad range of the statistical tools used by scientists, from formulating hypotheses, choosing the appropriate statistical test and carrying it out and presenting the data ready for publication. In this series of lectures and computer practicals, we will discuss approaches to experimental design and analysis using the modern statistical software R. 

Field Course

The field courses are the flagship components of our programmes where students will apply theoretical knowledge acquired in the taught units. Students will develop, execute, analysis and report on a small research project in the field. Currently you can choose between field courses to Ecuador (cloud and rainforest), Tanzania (Savannah and Highland forest) and Poland (Primeval forest). 

Species Recovery

This unit focuses on conservation actions that aim to reverse declines in threatened species. These include reintroductions of endangered or extinction species, ex-situ conservation breeding, post-release monitoring, habitat manipulation and biological control, and research underpinning knowledge of the causes decline and recovery priorities. The unit will draw on case studies from the tropics, and from species recovery efforts for UK and European plants and animals. 

Likely Optional Units

Topics in Conservation and Sustainability

The unit will examine biological theory and environmental policy underlying the sustainable use of resources to maintain their productive capacity and protective function. Example topics covered include: harvesting; soil management; tourism; genetic modification; tragedy of the commons.

Topics in Organismal Genetics

Within the context of modern population genetics, this unit will introduce the application of molecular genetics tools to a range of problems in conversation biology and evolution. Equal emphasis will be placed on background theory, data handling and generation and surveying modern applied genetics through case studies and primary literature. 

Earth Observation and GIS

This unit provides students with an introduction to the principles of Earth Observation and explores its role in data gathering (including recent sensor developments) and information extraction for GIS applications.

Assessment weightings and contact hours

10 credits equates to 100 hours of study, which is a combination of lectures, seminars and practical sessions, and independent study. A masters qualification typically comprises of 180 credits, a PGDip 120 credits, a PGCert 60 credits and an MFA 300 credits. The exact composition of your study time and assessments for the course will vary according to your option choices and style of learning, but it could be:


Additional information about this course

Students are expected to comply with the Schools codes of conduct and behaviour on field courses, placements and exchanges. Placements and study exchange opportunities are dependent on passing each stage at the first opportunity and being of good standing.

Placement options

You will be able to stay for six weeks at one of our research bases in Tanzania or Kenya and collect data for your own research project.

You can also join our two-week Tanzania Field Course, which takes place in June-July every year. There are visits to some of the most famous wildlife sites in the world, including the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park. We study some of the human impacts on, and management issues in, these protected areas as well as some of the factors affecting group size and mating systems of large mammals.

They also do incur additional costs. For example, the trip to Tanzania planned for summer 2019
costs approximately £2,500. Alternatively, the trip to Ecuador costs approximately £2,000 and Poland costs approximately £250.

Department of Natural Sciences

Our Department of Natural Sciences is a research-rich academic community with a well-established reputation in biology, chemistry, geography and environmental science.

The department works with research institutions, industry partners, national organisations and NGOs worldwide to address the challenges posed by environmental, socio-economic, cultural and political change, as well as health and advanced materials.

More about the department

Taught by experts

Your studies are supported by a team of committed and enthusiastic teachers and researchers, experts in their chosen field. We also work with external professionals, many of whom are Manchester Met alumni, to enhance your learning and appreciation of the wider subject.

Meet our expert staff


UK and EU students

UK and EU students: Full-time fee: £9,250 per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Fees for this course have yet to be confirmed and will be updated shortly.

Non-EU and Channel Island students

Non-EU international and Channel Island students: Full-time fee: £17,000 per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Fees for this course have yet to be confirmed and will be updated shortly.

Additional Information

A Masters qualification typically comprises 180 credits, a PGDip 120 credits, a PGCert 60 credits, and an MFA 300 credits. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of study provided the course is completed in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Additional costs

Specialist Costs

Students often choose to buy a laptop for their degree (costing approximately £300 to £400) and a printer (costing £50 to £100 including print consumables) but there are numerous drop-in computer facilities across campus and laptops for loan in the library. Lab coats and safety glasses are provided free of charge and expected to last for the duration of the course. Students will have to purchase replacements for lost or damaged items.

Placement Costs

Students have a choice of two core residential field trips associated with their course. These are subsidised but students can expect to pay a contribution to costs of approx. £250 for European (currently Poland) based field trips and £2,500 for the Tanzania based field course. For the field course to East Africa additional costs may incurred if inoculations are required (approx. £200-300).

Other Costs


The University now provides free travel insurance for students when they travel in connection with their programme of study, for example, placements, field trips, exchanges etc. However, students should also take out personal insurance cover for belongings as items such as mobile phones are not covered by this policy. Our courses have field-based elements of delivery so students would be expected to dress appropriately (i.e. purchase waterproof coats and trousers, sturdy footwear/walking boots). Students will be expected to print out assessments (including dissertations (with binding) and posters). Travel expenses associated with independent data collection for final year dissertations are not reimbursed by the School. Students will be advised to undertake low-cost local fieldwork at the design and planning stages of a project if necessary. We currently offer the opportunity, subject to demand, of carrying out project field work in Kenya or Tanzania, if available this would carry and additional cost of between £1,800 - £2,300, depending upon whether taken in conjunction with the residential optional Tanzania based field course.

Postgraduate Loan Scheme

Loans of up to £10,906 for many Postgraduate Courses

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Alumni Loyalty Discount

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How to apply

The quickest and most efficient way to apply for this course is to apply online. This way, you can also track your application at each stage of the process.

Apply online now

If you are unable to apply online, you can apply for postgraduate taught courses by completing the postgraduate application form. There are exceptions for some professional courses – the course information on our on-line prospectus will give you more information in these cases.

Please note: to apply for this course, you only need to provide one reference.

You can review our current Terms and Conditions before you make your application. If you are successful with your application, we will send you up to date information alongside your offer letter.


Programme Review
Our programmes undergo an annual review and major review (normally at 6 year intervals) to ensure an up-to-date curriculum supported by the latest online learning technology. For further information on when we may make changes to our programmes, please see the changes section of our Terms and Conditions.

Important Notice
This online prospectus provides an overview of our programmes of study and the University. We regularly update our online prospectus so that our published course information is accurate. Please check back to the online prospectus before making an application to us to access the most up to date information for your chosen course of study.

Confirmation of Regulator
The Manchester Metropolitan University is regulated by the Office for Students (OfS). The OfS is the independent regulator of higher education in England. More information on the role of the OfS and its regulatory framework can be found at

All higher education providers registered with the OfS must have a student protection plan in place. The student protection plan sets out what students can expect to happen should a course, campus, or institution close. Access our current Student Protection Plan.