Programme Outline - Animal Sciences

The MSc programme Animal Sciences is a two year programme, comprising 120 credits (ECTS). The general elements of the programme are courses, academic skills training, a major thesis and a research practice or internship. The first year mostly consists out of courses which fill gaps in knowledge and prepare for the thesis and research practice or internship in the second year. The Animal Sciences programme is tailor made to the interests and knowledge of the student. Together with your study adviser, you design your own programme.


The Animal Sciences programme, like all MSc programmes at Wageningen University & Research, is taught in English. In this way you are well prepared for a career within a global setting and for maintaining contacts with foreign colleagues.

Layout of the programme

The first year consists mostly of courses;

  • General courses are courses within the domain of animal sciences. It depends on your former education which courses are obligatory for you.
  • Specialisation courses are courses that prepare for your major thesis within the specialisation of your choice.
  • Optional courses are courses that are not required for a specific specialisation, but fit with your interest. You can use optional courses in combination with a research practice to school yourself in a specific professional direction.

During the second year you write a major thesis in combination with a research practice or an internship. Whether you will do a research practice or an internship depends on your previous education. Within the Animal Sciences programme, you choose one of the six specialisations, can chose to follow professional career interests and/or participate in an international programme.


There are six specialisations you can choose from within the MSc Animal Sciences:

A. Genetics and Biodiversity

B. Nutrition and Metabolism

C. Global and Sustainable production

D. Adaptation, Health and Behaviour

E. Molecule, Cell and Organ Functioning

F. Animal Ecology

Each of the specialisations trains you to become an expert in that field. Within your specialisation you will choose a specific track, which is offered by one of the chair groups from this specialisation. The two major parts of your specialisation are the (thesis-preparing) courses and a major thesis. You can extend your specialisation with an internship or a research practice. It is also possible to do a research practice at another study track or specialisation.

Courses (60 credits)

About half of your MSc programme will be allocated to courses, this is mostly scheduled in the 1st year. Which courses you will take, depends on several factors: your previously acquired competences, your basic knowledge and your choice of specialisation. Courses can be compulsory or restricted optional. The exact course programme of the MSc Animal Sciences depends therefore for the majority on the individual student. Compulsory courses can be advanced statistics or bachelor courses in a specific field, in case you lack the necessary basic knowledge. Compulsory courses also include various academic skills courses ranging from scientific skills to consultancy skills. In addition, it also include thesis-preparing courses linked to the specialisation of your choice.

Information on the courses within the Animal Sciences programme and their planning can be found on the website of the study handbook.

Go to Study Handbook

Major Thesis (36 credits)

The major thesis is the final piece of work a student delivers prior to graduation. In a major thesis, you will perform a scientific research project, usually at one of the chair groups of the Animal Sciences department. The major thesis consists of at least of a literature study, writing a research proposal, performing scientific experiments, data analysis, writing a scientific report, and presenting results orally. Your own interest is very important in choosing a research topic for your major thesis. The study advisers and the websites of the Animal Sciences chair groups provide much information on possible thesis subjects. There are a lot of collaborations between research institutes within Wageningen University & Research, as well as with national and international universities and companies active in the field of Animal Sciences.

Find out more about the chair groups of the Animal Sciences department via the link below.

Go to chair groups Animal Sciences

Research Practice (24 credits)

A research practice is comparable to a major thesis with respect to the learning goals and composition. It is also a research project, but of a shorter duration. In addition, students also reflect on their career perspective. A research practice can be used to deepen and extend your knowledge on the topic of your specialisation. In that case it is usually performed at or via the chair group from your specialisation. A research practice can also be used to broaden your expertise, for instance by choosing a thesis subject in a specific professional direction. Then it is performed at a chair group outside the Animal Sciences department.

The Animal Sciences programme offers you to deepen your knowledge for a specific professional career interest. Find out if this opportunity fit your career interests by clicking the link below.

Go to Professional career interests

Internship (24 credits)

The aim of academic internships is that students assimilate the institutional, entrepreneurial and labour reality of their social setting of future academic positions. Proper internships require that students apply their scientific knowledge, exercise their professional skills, learn to work independently with a sense of responsibility for the organisation and can expand their personal network. Many students conduct their internship at a university or a research institution abroad, but an internship can also be conducted at a company in The Netherlands. The choice of an internship location is based on the interests and wishes of the student and the (worldwide) contacts of the staff of the chair group.

Back to MSc Animal Sciences

Student Counselling

The Animal Sciences programme has an education team consisting of a programme director, three bachelor study advisers (one especially for international students), two master study advisers and a study recruiter.

For a conversation or counselling you can always contact one of the study advisers. They can help you plan your study, with choosing specialisations and subjects, study problems or private matters that affect your study.

Student counselling

Study Load and the Academic Year

The programme is a two-year master in which 60 credits (ECTS) can be obtained per year. The total study load is therefore 120 ECTS. One ECTS corresponds to 28 study load hours, 1 academic year includes 40 teaching weeks. This means students are expected to devote an average of 42 hours per week to their studies, making the programme genuinely full-time.

The academic year in Wageningen is divided into 6 teaching period. Periods last 8 weeks (period 1, 2, 5 and 6) or 4 weeks (period 3 and 4). Each eight-week teaching periods is worth 12 ECTS, usually spread across two courses. Each four-week teaching period is worth 6 ECTS, usually including one course.

Calender academic year

Teaching Methods

Courses are taught by members of the academic staff, who also form the research groups that produce the scientific content and maintain quality within the programme. Teaching is organised in various ways, and most subjects are trained in a variety of teaching methods.

Lectures usually involve sitting in a large room with lots of other students, and listening to the lecturer. The lecturer will discuss the material, give the broad outline and sometimes explain more difficult concepts in greater detail. Lecturers will often hand out copies of their presentation beforehand, or post them digitally on the subject’s Blackboard site.

During tutorials, groups of 20-40 students work actively on equations, tasks or assignments, either independently or in groups. A supervisor is present to assist and aid discussion afterwards. The first-year mathematics subjects are given primarily as tutorials; however, Behavioural Endocrinology also involves a lot of tutorials.

In practical classes, students get to work themselves. Practical classes vary greatly depending on the subject’s learning objectives. The aim of practical subjects is to acquaint students with a variety of research and measurement methods, to teach about the limitations of these methods and how to interpret the results. Practical classes also serve to illustrate theory.

PBL stands for Problem-Based Learning (also sometimes called Inquiry-Based Learning). In PBL, groups of four to twelve students take classes with a supervisor, who presents a problem or case study requiring a solution. Students gain knowledge by solving the problem and learn skills by going through the problem-solving process (e.g. allocating tasks, meeting and discussion skills). The group assignments are sometimes followed by presentations, in which each group presents their results.

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