Our standards, culture and governance

The University of Manchester requires the very highest standards of ethical conduct and practice whenever animals are involved in research.

feeding sheep
Manchester has a deeply embedded culture of care

Our standards are set out in the University's Policy on the Use of Animals in Research.

  • The reduction of any harm and discomfort caused to animals must always be a priority consideration.
  • Animals being housed for the purposes of research must be cared for with the highest standards of husbandry.
  • Where animals are being observed in their natural habitat, care must be taken not to damage their environment and, where applicable, official permits must be obtained from the appropriate governing body of the country concerned prior to any animals being disturbed or collected for study.

The '3 Rs' 

Here at Manchester we are fully committed to research designed to reduce, refine and replace animals used for scientific purposes, referred to as the '3 Rs'. This is now a globally recognised framework for humane animal research, which has been embedded in national and international legislation.

  • Reduce: We employ methods that minimise the number of animals used in experiments
  • Refine: We use methods that minimise suffering and improve animal welfare
  • Replace: We are actively involved in the search for new technologies that help us to avoid the use of animals in research

We actively encourage our staff to engage with the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3Rs), which aims to develop scientifically robust, non-animal alternatives and, where animal use continues to be necessary, works to reduce the number of animals involved and improve welfare practices.

We also fully support and endorse the ARRIVE (Animal Research: Reporting of In Vivo Experiments) guidelines, developed as part of an NC3Rs initiative to improve the design, analysis and reporting of animal research.

Formal governance

The use of living vertebrates and cephalopods in scientific procedures in the UK are regulated by the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986 (ASPA). 

We have an Animal Welfare and Ethical Review Body (AWERB) comprised of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, including vets, animal welfare officers, scientists and lay people. Its role is to:

  • promote the ethical considerations of animal use;
  • ensure that the principles embodied in the 3Rs are implemented;
  • ensure high standards of animal care and welfare.

In addition, we have an ethical review process for the use of animals in scientific enquiry not regulated under ASPA because the animals are not vertebrates or cephalopods or the research does not involve the animal in scientific procedures (for example, behavioural and observational projects).

As well as reporting to our establishment licence holder, the activities of AWERB are also reported to our Research Compliance Committee, which is chaired by our Associate Vice President for Compliance, Risk and Research Integrity. This Committee sets standards and ensures the University meets its obligations to comply with regulations that govern research. Research Compliance Committee conducts an annual review of the activities of the AWERB and reports quarterly to our Planning and Resources Committee and annually to our Board of Governors.

Our culture of care

As well as ensuring high standards of care through policy and governance structures, we have a deeply embedded culture of care.

  • Our fully trained care staff all hold degrees in animal care and qualifications accredited by the Institute of Animal Technology
  • We house animals in social groups wherever possible and provide a rich and varied environment to allow a range of natural behaviours
  • We employ a full-time animal care and welfare officer and a veterinary surgeon to ensure best practice is adopted and observed

Named persons

There have been special controls on the use of laboratory animals in the UK since 1876. These were revised and extended in 1986 as the Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (ASPA). ASPA was amended in 2012 to take account of a European directive that requires five specific roles to be identified on the Establishment Licence. The license allows animal research to take place at the University in appropriate animal accommodation and veterinary facilities.

  1. Named Compliance Officer(NCO) and Establishment Licence Holder: to ensure that the requirements of ASPA and the conditions of the establishment licence are complied with.
  2. Named Veterinary Surgeon (NVS): a designated veterinarian with expertise in relevant experimental animal medicine, charged with advisory duties in relation to the wellbeing and treatment of the animals. Exceptionally, a suitably qualified expert may be appointed where more appropriate. The University has two NVSs.
  3. Named Animal Care and Welfare Officer (NACWO): responsible for overseeing the welfare and care of the animals in the establishment. The University has six NACWOs.
  4. Named Training and Competency Officer (NTCO): responsible for ensuring that staff are adequately educated, competent and continuously trained and that they are supervised until they have demonstrated the requisite competency. The University has two NTCOs.
  5. Named Information Officer (NIO): to ensure that staff dealing with animals have access to information specific to the species housed in the establishment.