Veterinary Nursing and Applied Animal Behaviour BSc (Hons)

Full-time undergraduate (4 years with placement)

University Centre West Anglia (Milton)


Intermediate awards: CertHE, DipHE


Our four-year honours degree offers 1,800 hours on placement. Accredited by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), it will give you expert nursing care skills and experience needed to register as a veterinary nurse when you graduate.

Full description


Veterinary nursing is a rewarding career with lots of opportunities to work independently or for specialising. As veterinary nurses continue to take on more responsibilities, they’re becoming more in demand and so employment prospects are very good.

This course gives you the skills you need to register as an RCVS veterinary nurse. It also includes 1,800 hours of practice placement in an RCVS-approved veterinary training practice, so you’ll have fantastic experience to show to potential employers.

As a qualified veterinary nurse, you’ll work alongside vets to look after and treat domestic animals. You’ll help provide expert care for sick animals and to prevent diseases and conditions. You’ll be able to carry out diagnostic tests, apply medical treatments and even perform minor surgical procedures under supervision.

You'll also learn a lot of biology in Anglia Ruskin labs. This means that besides working in a veterinary practice, you could also consider a career in a laboratory, university, research establishment, zoo or wildlife park, pharmaceutical company, charity or kennels.

As you progress in your career, you could take on extra responsibilities like supervising other staff, looking after animal hospital wards, practice management and teaching or training other staff.

Graduation doesn’t need to be the end of your time with us. If you’d like to continue your studies we offer a wide range of full-time and part-time postgraduate courses.

Modules & assessment

Year one, core modules

  • Principles and Practice of Veterinary Nursing
    Focus on the role of the veterinary nurse and working relationships with clients and members of the veterinary team, while learning effective communication strategies. Develop knowledge and understanding of a range of common medical conditions, exploring how these pathologies are detected and how they affect the physiological, sensorimotor and behavioural functioning of animals. You’ll gain a thorough understanding of recovery factors and aspects of drug administration in veterinary medicine and cover health and safety within the practice setting, including risk assessments, safe handling of animals and equipment, compliance with protocols for the maintenance of veterinary equipment and handling of hazardous materials, as well as emergency procedures. You’ll assess, devise, implement and evaluate appropriate management and treatment regimes for a range of acute and chronic health problems, within an evidence-based paradigm of care planning and delivery. The delivery, assessment and pass marks for this module have been approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to enable you to apply to enter the register of veterinary nurses.
  • Work Based Learning 1: Companion Animal Handling, Husbandry and Welfare for Veterinary Nursing
    This module will equip you with both theoretical and practical knowledge of the natural behaviours and needs in captivity of a wide range of common and exotic species kept as human companions. You will become familiar with the gross anatomy of a range of companion animal species to allow you to undertake the safe handling of a variety of animals. Through this practical experience you will become proficient in a range of animal handling and husbandry techniques, including methods for the safe and effective restraint of a range of species and the conduction of routine health checks. Matters of Health and Safety as well as the legislative requirements of keeping animals will be covered. You will be expected to assess a wide variety of commercial housing and husbandry regimes and reflect on the factors which influence them and suggest evidence-based modifications to improve animal welfare. You will gain understanding of the breeding cycles of a range of domestic and exotic species and appreciate the reproductive strategies of natural mating, artificial insemination and pseudocyesis. You are expected to complete both routine and advanced husbandry duties within the Small Animal Unit, including weekend duties. Diary / Log book assessment will involve collecting evidence to support competency of practical skills and your ability to work effectively in a team as well as an evaluation of the professional and occupational standards followed in relation to your own specific practice. By the end of the module you will have developed the practical skills required to care for a range of animals as well as transferable skills required to work within the diverse animal Industry.
  • Preparing for Practice Placement
    Gain an understanding of the operational processes and procedures that are fundamental to the effective management of veterinary practices. Explore the factors influencing working relationships with clients and between members of the veterinary team, and learn strategies to promote effective communication via the spoken and written word for both information exchange and the imparting of advice and guidance to clients. Particular attention will be paid to effective telephonic communication. Through an exploration of the psychology of animal owners as clients, you’ll develop effective communication skills for imparting professional advice and treatment information and supporting clients through the grieving process after the loss of a pet. The nature of Observed Simulated Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) will be explained and students will engage with the process through the rehearsal and assessment of some key practical tasks in readiness for their work-experience, which forms an integral part of this module. Students will explore the range of legislation and guidance governing the storage, prescribing and sale of veterinary medicines and non-food items and gain understanding of the range of skills required for the appropriate storage of drugs within a veterinary practice context.
  • Veterinary Nursing Within the Surgical Environment
    Learn the role of a veterinary nurse in the surgical environment, including preparation and hygiene in the surgical environment, routine preparation of patients for operative procedures, supporting the surgical team during the procedure and the stabilisation and monitoring of the post operative patient.
  • Animal Anatomy and Physiology
    Through this module, you’ll get an appreciation of how major anatomical structures and systems within animals relate to locomotion and behaviour. We’ll investigate the anatomy and physiology of animals giving you a thorough understanding of animal morphology. You’ll investigate the structure and function of all major body organs, including the superficial and deep muscles, skeletal structures, cardiovascular, digestive, nervous and respiratory systems. Through the study of the senses, particularly the auditory and visual systems, you’ll understand how various animals perceive their environment and the influence this has on its behaviour. Computer-based learning assignments will give you immediate formative guidance on your performance and assessments will be short answer, multiple choice based assessments and a traditional essay where you'll be required to relate anatomy and physiology to behavioural characteristics of animals.
  • Introduction to Animal Behaviour
    In this module the philosophy and multidisciplinary origins of the scientific study of behaviour are reviewed. The ethically sound use of the scientific study of animal behaviour in pure and applied disciplines will be considered, especially in the context of the assessment of animal welfare. Differences in the emphases between the fields of psychology and animal behaviour are discussed, with particular reference to the learning process, and the synthesis of these fields is presented using a framework of proximate (developmental and mechanistic) and ultimate (functional and phylogenetic) explanations. Fundamental processes influencing animal behaviour will be considered, including the relative contributions of evolutionary processes, gene expression and environment in the elucidation of behaviour, and how the structures and processes of the nervous system underpin the biological bases of behaviour.

Year two, core modules

  • Principles and Practice of Diagnostics for Veterinary Nursing
    Gain knowledge and understanding of emerging imaging techniques and traditional laboratory diagnostics for differential diagnosis of disease and injury in veterinary practice. You’ll use a range of laboratory equipment and conduct standard laboratory tests, understanding and following protocols devised to comply with health and safety and other relevant safety at work legislation. Learn all the essential skills related to the preservation and processing of pathological samples and specimens and interpretation of the results from these investigations. You’ll focus on principles, practice, indications for use and interpretation of results of X-ray, ultrasonic and magnetic resonance imaging, CAT scans and endoscopic examination. This will develop your understanding of the principles and interpretation of electro cardiograms and competence in the maintenance and practical application of the equipment used for this diagnostic technique. The delivery, assessment and pass marks for this module have been approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to enable you to apply to enter the register of veterinary nurses.
  • Biomeasurement
    This module introduces the use of statistics and computing software in the biosciences. Although we focus on biological applications, the quantitative and IT skills you will gain will be of benefit in a number of graduate employment roles. You will be shown how to use information in the form of data to answer questions about biological systems, and learn a range of visual data presentation and statistical techniques. We will also show you how to choose the most appropriate technique for a range of data types and circumstances, perform and interpret numerical and graphical analyses correctly, and communicate the results clearly and transparently.
  • Principles and Practice of Anaesthesia for Veterinary Nursing
    You’ll learn about animal morphology through investigation of the gross anatomy and physiology of animals. Investigate the structure and function of all major body organs, including the superficial and deep muscles, skeletal structures, cardiovascular, digestive, nervous and respiratory systems. Learn anatomical features of specific animals and the terminology for describing organs, regions of the body and anatomical directions. Through the study of the senses, particularly the auditory and visual systems, you’ll develop understanding of the way various animals perceive their environment and the influence this has on its behaviour.
  • Animal Health and Nutrition
    This module will introduce you to the study of animal health and nutrition with particular emphasis on the relationship between health, disease, nutrition and welfare in domesticated animals. You will examine the essential components of food and learn how they contribute to a balanced diet in domesticated animals. We will discuss comparative digestive anatomy and physiology, as well as the impact of appropriate and inappropriate nutrition on animal health and welfare. You will examine the agents of significant animal diseases including epizootics and zoonoses, and the transmission, management and prevention of disease. We will discuss the use of veterinary intervention, drugs and feed supplements and the impact of these measures on welfare. We will also consider the ethical implications of their deployment in problems of animal disease.
  • Emergency, Critical and Perioperative Care
    Extensive knowledge of both conventional and contemporary emergency and critical care procedures and perioperative veterinary support for sick animals is crucial to the effectiveness of the role of the veterinary nurse. You’ll gain understanding of your potential role in relation to emergency and surgical care and the responsibilities of members of the surgical and post operative nursing team. You’ll gain in depth knowledge of the principles and practice of small animal first aid covering information gathering and history taking and such procedures as techniques of casualty assessment, the safe movement and transport of unconscious animals and immediate first aid for fractures and burns. The processes and equipment required for the receipt of an emergency casualty in the veterinary practice will be explained including procedures to stabilise or resuscitate a patient. You’ll learn the legal and administrative requirements for the admission and preparation of animals for surgery and develop your ability to create nursing records. You’ll cover in detail the core nursing procedures in the post operative period including patient monitoring of vital signs and bodily functions, comfort and freedom from psychological stress; administration of medication, fluids and nutrition; the hygienic elimination of waste products and wound management, including surgical wound care. You’ll cover emergency procedures for rapid deterioration and special intensive care nursing techniques such as the principles of intravenous cannulation, the administration of blood and the principles of respiratory therapy and parenteral nutrition is thoroughly explained. Discharge planning and advice on post-operative homecare is explained and you’ll devise appropriate homecare plans for a range of animals in common surgical scenarios. The delivery, assessment and pass marks for this module have been approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to enable you to apply to enter the register of veterinary after graduating.

Year three, core modules

  • Practical Application Module
    Animal handling, husbandry and general care are delivered in diverse settings by a number of professions. Here, you’ll explore different settings by negotiating a short placement of your choice within an appropriate specialist animal care setting. Your experience will foster the skills for independent learning, allow for experience of care in a different environment and may lay the foundations for your future career choices. You’ll spend time in a specialist animal care arena, allowing you to identify a personal focus for building upon the experience of inter-professional collaboration that you’ll gain throughout your course. The major focus of the module will relate to the understanding of evidence-based ‘best’ practice and the factors that can detract from the ideal within normal clinical settings. You’ll be given the opportunity for expert and peer review of their clinical practical skills in a simulated practice environment within the College of West Anglia. Group and individual engagement with realistic case scenarios will enable you to refine your problem-solving skills and culminate in the OSCE (Observed Structured Clinical Examination) to assess clinical competency in a range of practical skills fundamental to the practice of veterinary nursing. The delivery, assessment and pass marks for this module have been approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to enable you to apply to enter the register of veterinary nurses.
  • Animal Therapy and Rehabilitation
    This module will build on your previous learning to develop a wider understanding of the range of disease and injury found in animal species. You’ll explore and rehearse handling, husbandry and rehabilitation techniques, including the use of the state of the art equipment within our new Equine Therapy Centre, designed to maintain and improve animal health. Through expert presentations and practical sessions, you’ll become familiar with the range of therapeutic and rehabilitation techniques that may be prescribed by veterinary personnel to combat a range of common illnesses and injuries in animal species. Video recording equipment and specialist analysis software will allow detailed observation of the movement patterns of both fit and injured animals. You’ll also have the opportunity to visit specialist centres such as the Animal Health Trust and veterinary hospitals. Guest lecturers from rehabilitation specialists will also be arranged. We’ll assess your learning through a case-study, showing your understanding of appropriate assessment techniques and immediate first-aid for an animal suffering from an illness or injury.
  • Preparation for Research in the Animal Sectors
    This is a dissertation preparation module that will introduce the concept of independent, student-directed research, giving you the opportunity to design and propose your own research project. You’ll be assigned a supervisor to help you through the process, from the initial concept to the final research proposal. The module will deliver a range of lectures and workshops designed to introduce information, skills and requirements necessary for preparing a successful research proposal. These include defining and developing a conceptual framework, finding and reviewing relevant literature, identifying and understanding appropriate materials and methods for data collection and analysis, understanding the potential outcomes and impact of the research, ethical considerations, and health and safety considerations.

Years 2-3 core modules

  • Practice Placement 1
    Investigate the gross anatomy and physiology of animals and understand how major anatomical structures and systems within animals relate to locomotion and behaviour. Investigate the structure and function of all major body organs, including the superficial and deep muscles, skeletal structures, cardiovascular, digestive, nervous and respiratory systems. Learn anatomical features of specific animals and the terminology for describing organs, regions of the body and anatomical directions. Through the study of the senses, particularly the auditory and visual systems, you’ll understand the way various animals perceive their environment and the influence this has on its behaviour. You’ll compare specific anatomical and physiological structures of birds, reptiles and mammals.

Year four, core modules

  • Human Behaviour Change for Animal Welfare
    The relationships between humans and animals are complex. The actions of humans towards animals in domestic, captive and natural contexts can influence profoundly the behaviour and welfare of animals. Understanding how to effectively influence human-animal relationships in a positive way through negotiation and counselling is therefore an essential skill set for most animal-based careers. This module will synthesise your knowledge of animal behaviour and welfare with aspects of human psychology as it relates to the human-animal relationship.
  • Entrepreneurial Enterprises for Veterinary Nurses
    Develop your enterprise skills and enhance your employability. This module aims to introduce you to both theoretical and practical concepts of entrepreneurship and the processes required to create new business opportunities within an existing veterinary practice. You will learn techniques to allow you to assess the marketing environment in which a veterinary practice operates and combine the findings with information regarding the resources of the practice to produce an entrepreneurial business plan. The module will enable you to understand and implement the processes and systems required to conceive, research, write and pitch a credible plan in order to gain the necessary resources to create a new commercial activity. You will explore the need for veterinary practices, whatever their size, to develop the capability to anticipate and respond to changes in their external environment through innovations that both maintain current competitiveness and build longer term advantage and sustainability. You will explore the importance of employees of a veterinary practice adopting a customer orientated approach to their work to identify and satisfy customer wants and needs.
  • Animal Behaviour Counselling
    This module will require you to synthesise your knowledge of ethology, learning theory, human psychology, neuropsychology and psychopharmacology. This broad understanding of factors initiating and influencing human and non-human behaviour will be contextualised within the discipline of companion animal behaviour counselling. Strong emphasis will be placed on practicing counselling skills such as taking case histories, communicating with clients and professionals and supplying oral and written instructions and feedback to clients. The science and art of differential diagnosis in respect of common animal behaviour problems and the construction and delivery of appropriate structured treatment regimes will be tested through both the critical appraisal of literature and the reporting of case studies.
  • Animal Learning and Training
    Animal learning and training has developed to date with a common emphasis on physical force and punishment in the training of companion, domestic and working animals, techniques which have been widely denounced by professional animal behaviourists. Through our exploration of the theoretical perspectives and methodological approaches related to animal learning and training, you will develop ‘positive’ training methods which are fundamental to the modern aims of increasing animal health and welfare in social, working and captive environments. As you progress in your understanding and application of animal management and training skills you will develop a moral and social sense that is important to animal welfare. By gaining a detailed knowledge of the terminology and concepts related to learning theory, you will gain insight into the biological and mental processes that underpin animal behaviour. You will learn how the natural perceptual abilities of animals and their species-typical behaviours influence the success of a range of behavioural modification techniques, including an animal’s ability to learn responses to cues, event markers and rewards. You will gain a thorough understanding of simple, associative and instrumental learning and will be given the opportunity to observe and apply training techniques in field trip locations, such as animal training and captive animal environments. You will benefit from these career-related events and field trips through the opportunity to listen to and meet guest speakers, from whom you will learn the professional network in the field of animal behaviour. From meetings with prospective employers you will gain the commercial awareness necessary for the employment opportunities for graduates that have learnt the modern methods of animal learning and training utilised in this module.
  • Preparation for Professional Practice
    An understanding of the professional, legal and ethical frameworks within which veterinary nurses operate in the UK is essential to safe and effective professional practice. You’ll learn to interpret the provisions of the Veterinary Surgeons Act and other relevant legislation in order to explain their impact on the scope of professional practice. Ethical frameworks will be examined and their relevance to veterinary nursing practice explored. You’ll gain an understanding of the functions of the RCVS as the professional regulatory body for veterinary nursing and its pivotal role in guiding professional conduct.
  • Advanced Approaches in Animal Management
    Historically animal behaviour has been under emphasised in strategies designed to protect (1) human and non-human animal health and; (2) conserve and manage populations. This module addresses this by exploring the interfaces between animal behaviour, disease processes and management strategies. You will explore the integration of animal behaviour with established and emerging approaches to identifying, monitoring and controlling non-human animal based problems. This will utilise techniques including geographical information systems, veterinary epidemiology and population ecology modelling.
  • Undergraduate Major Project
    You will create in a substantial piece of individual research and/or product development work, focused on a topic of your choice. You could choose your topic from a variety of sources including research groups, previous/current work experience, your current employer, a suggestion from your tutor or a topic you are specifically interested in. You will identify problems and issues, conduct literature reviews, evaluate information, investigate and adopt suitable development methodologies, determine solutions, develop hardware, software and/or media artifacts as appropriate, process data, critically appraise and present your finding using a variety of media. Regular meetings with your project supervisor will ensure your project is closely monitored and steered in the right direction.


Throughout the course, we’ll use a range of assessment methods to help you and your tutors measure your progress. Beside exams, you’ll do laboratory skills tests, computer-based exercises and essays, and prepare practical and project reports.

You’ll have a total of 1800 hours of practice placement in an RCVS-approved veterinary training practice. During this time, you’ll be under continuous assessment.

To become an RCVS-registered veterinary nurse, you’ll need to take the RCVS SVN Level II and Level III external exams (in addition to any exams for your course modules). You’ll also build a portfolio of your practical experience.

Where you'll study

Your faculty

The Faculty of Science & Engineering is one of the largest of the four faculties at Anglia Ruskin University. Whether you choose to study with us full-time or part-time, on campus or at a distance, there’s an option whatever your level – from a foundation degree, BSc, MSc, PhD or professional doctorate.

Whichever course you pick, you’ll gain the theory and practical skills needed to progress with confidence. Join us and you could find yourself learning in the very latest laboratories or on field trips or work placements with well-known and respected companies. You may even have the opportunity to study abroad.

Everything we do in the faculty has a singular purpose: to provide a world-class environment to create, share and advance knowledge in science, technology and engineering fields. This is key to all of our futures.

Where can I study?

Fees & funding

Course fees

UK & EU students, 2019/20 (full-time, per year)


Fee information

For more information about tuition fees, including the UK Government's commitment to EU students, please see our UK/EU funding pages.

Additional costs

RCVS enrolment – £196

RVNs pay fees to enter the register of nursing (sometimes covered by employer) where an annual fee is also payable. More details available at:

You will also need to pay for the nursing uniform you would wear in practice.

How do I pay my fees?

You can pay your fees in the following ways.

Tuition fee loan

UK students can take out a tuition fee loan, which you won’t need to start repaying until after your graduate. Or there's the option to pay your fees upfront.

Loans and fee payments


We offer a fantastic range of ARU scholarships, which provide extra financial support while you’re at university. Some of these cover all or part of your tuition fees.

Explore ARU scholarships

Funding for UK students

Most new UK undergraduate students can apply for government funding to support their studies and university life. This also applies to EU, EEA and Swiss nationals who have citizens' rights following Brexit.

Government funding includes Tuition Fee Loans and Maintenance Loans. There are additional grants available for specific groups of students, such as those with disabilities or dependants.

We also offer a range of ARU scholarships, which can provide extra financial support while you’re at university.

Entry requirements

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  • 96 UCAS tariff points, including Biological Science A level at C or above, or an equivalent level 3 qualification.
  • 5 GCSEs at grade 4 (C) or above including English, maths and science. Functional skills qualification in English and Maths at level 2 are considered equivalent.
  • A minimum of 4 weeks of relevant work experience (2 in an animal care environment and 2 in a veterinary nursing practice). You and your supervisor will be asked to complete a work experience feedback form to evidence this.

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning in September 2020, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning.

Important additional notes

Whether you're studying entirely online or through a blend of face-to-face and online learning from September 2021, you'll need a computer and reliable internet access to successfully engage with your course. Before starting the course, we recommend that you check our technical requirements for online learning. Our website also has general information for new students about starting university in 2021-22.

Our published entry requirements are a guide only and our decision will be based on your overall suitability for the course as well as whether you meet the minimum entry requirements. Other equivalent qualifications may be accepted for entry to this course, please email for further information.

All tariff points must come from A levels. Points from AS levels cannot be counted towards the total tariff points required for entry to this course.

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