PIL Course FAQs
1. Why do I need to do this training?
If you are going to work with Laboratory Animals carrying out regulated procedures you need to apply for, and be granted, a personal licence (known as a PIL) by the Home Office.
Before granting this licence the Home Office will need evidence that you have the correct training. Training certificates are valid for 5 years so you may need to do refresher training or fully re-take the course at some point. You will also need to attend additional training if you want to work with a new species.
Just because your training was over 5 years ago doesn't necessarily mean you will have to re-train completely, your previous experience as a personal licence holder will be taken into account, as will the type of work you have been doing. For example, a current licence holder who is coming to Oxford, but who trained over 5 years ago, would be able to apply without re-taking the course.
2. Won't my research group teach me everything I need to know?
As far as the legislation is concerned, and using the driving analogy to illustrate the point, this is a bit like saying that you do not need a driving licence because you have a friend that will teach you how to drive. Although this may actually be true, it is a position that can be open to misuse. But there is also another, more academic, justification: there is a good chance that you will learn a few things that experienced researchers have forgotten. They also may not be aware of recent progress in materials, techniques, environmental enrichment etc. There is in fact a growing body of experienced licensees who come to the course to refresh their memory or to learn new facts.
3. I am studying the three-legged spotted dormouse (Glis limpus acnus) in the wild. How relevant will the course be?
The content of the course reflects the fact that the vast majority of delegates will be working with laboratory animals. It is obviously difficult (if not impossible) to teach a course that focuses on a particular wild species and you will have to select a laboratory species (amongst those on offer), which most closely resemble the one that you will be studying. However, a number of principles remain valid: they include the law, humane (and legal) methods of euthanasia, principles of anaesthesia, suturing techniques as well as ethical considerations. Indeed the welfare implications (and the skill of the researcher) when working with wild animals are particularly relevant because small perturbations are more likely to affect fitness in the wild. Note that within the general constraints mentioned above, the course staff are always keen to make the course as useful and relevant as possible. You will be provided with a feedback form at the end of the course, and you are welcome to make suggestions to the staff during the course.
4. I'm an experienced human surgeon, but still need to attend PIL C training, why is this?
Our courses cater for a wide range of backgrounds and expertise, including those with no experience. However, the fact that animals are designed (and behave) differently to humans can cause some different problems, which are worth drawing to your attention to. It is also an opportunity to talk to the veterinary surgeons about some of the procedures that you intend to do.
5. Are your courses FELASA accredited?
Yes. Our courses are accredited for FELASA Function A. We issue all students who pass with a FELASA certificate (as well as a certificate from the UK Accrediting Body).
We are the only UK institution currently accredited to FELASA for this training.
6. I have a FELASA certificate from an establishment in another country - does this mean i'm exempt from training?
The UK recognises FELASA accredited training.
The certificate must be from an Institution that is FELASA Accredited (a list of these can be found here). Note that several establishments state that they follow the FELASA Guidelines but are not accredited.
The training must have been completed within the last 5 years on the relevant species.
If the above is satisfied you will only need to complete the modules that are relevant to National practice: . modules L (UK laws on animal research –ASPA), E1 (Ethics) and K (Schedule 1 methods). Click here to see the full list of modules.
7. How frequently do the courses run?
PIL A,B & C courses are usually at the start (week 0) of every term (October, January, April and a summer course in July). Please register in advance. Even if you are not certain that a student will need to take the course next term, it is better to pre-register him/her and confirm nearer the date than register at the last minute.
The dates of our next courses can be seen here.
8. How do I register for the course?
Register on-line by filling out the PIL Training registration form.
9. How is the course structured?
It is divided into 3 sections - PILs A, B & C, elements of which are species-specific -
PIL A deals with legislation and ethics, principles of animal care, such as diseases and recognition of pain & distress, prinicples of animal use, such as health monitoring
PIL B gives an introduction to Anaesthesia for minor procedures.
PIL C covers recovery anaesthesia and surgical & suturing techniques. It is applicable to all species.
10. How long does the course last?
The course consists of:
PIL A & B: 2 days of lectures, 1 Practical day, 4 hours handling session, exam
Additional PIL C: 1 day of lectures, 1 practical day, exam
You will be told your practical dates and other key course dates when you register. Our courses are run over a period of 2 weeks, but you will only need to attend on the dates given at registration.
11. Who teaches the course?
A large part is taught by academics and veterinary surgeons here at Oxford, but the course also calls upon the expertise of administrators, animal technicians & medical doctors. Most are from Oxford University but we also bring outside speakers when relevant. The course is taught in an informal atmosphere and provides a platform for you to ask questions which may be directly relevant to your work.
12. Will I be assessed?
Yes. The teaching staff will assess your progress during the practical, your ability to handle the species of animals that you have chosen and your participation during the discussion on ethics and experimental design. There is also a written assessment at the end of the course in the form of an exam.. The pass mark is 70%. You will be briefed on this during the course.
13. Are past papers available?
No, because they are part of a national database. But there will be an example of questions during the course.
14. How long will it take before I get my results?
Assessments are marked and results dispatched to you usually within 3 working days.
15. When do I get my certificate?
Certificates are issued by the national accrediting body based in Sheffield. As soon as we receive it, we'll forward it to you. This should be no more than 10 days after you've been told you've passed.
16. What if I fail?
If you fail, there is a resit session usually a week later. The aim of the assessment is not to fail you but to ensure that you have an adequate breadth of knowledge. If you have been attentive you should not have any problems, but if you fail you should consider this an opportunity to improve your skills/knowledge before you start work with animals.
If you fail the resit, the rules state that you will need to do the course again. Alternatively, you could volunteer to act as a guinea pig yourself instead of using animals. Your choice!
17. Can I start doing experiments after I finish the course?
If you need a licence, NO.
Your training certificate is not a licence.
When you pass the exam, you will get a certificate stating the module(s) and species that you have taken and passed. The certificate needs to be included with your application for a Personal Licence. The Home Office will review your application for a Personal Licence. You can start procedural work only when your application has been granted by the Home Office.
18. What is a Project Licence and how does that relate to me?
As a personal licence holder you will be working under a project licence.
A Project Licence is granted to your supervisor/project leader after a cost (to the animal) vs. benefit (to ‘society’) analysis aiming at ensuring that the project itself is worthy enough to justify the use of animals, whilst the Personal Licence ensures that the staff carrying out the work are competent before they start working (surely a fair request), and are supervised while gaining experience.
19.. What if I need to add another species later?
You only need to do the species-specific module(s) during the next course (courses are run every term). This will consist of a seminar, a handling/practical session and an exam.
20. I already have a personal licence - can I transfer it to Oxford?
Yes - BUT you will need to re-apply for a personal licence here at Oxford (this is just an administrative step).
21. How can I find out more about the law?
This is one of the aspects covered by the course of course, but you will find the ‘Guidance on the Operation of The Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986' on the internet at:
You will also find guidance notes and technical advice at: