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College of Winterhold

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For other uses, see Winterhold.
"You know, if you have the aptitude, you should join the Mage's College in Winterhold."
Farengar Secret-Fire[src]

The College of Winterhold is a guild of mages centered in Skyrim. It is a faction of magic-users similar to the Mages Guild of Cyrodiil and Morrowind. When the Dragonborn appears, the current Arch-Mage is Savos Aren, with Mirabelle Ervine serving as the Master Wizard. During the faction's main quest, Tolfdir replaces her as Master Wizard. The College is located in the northern section of the city of Winterhold, in northern Skyrim. Instructors of each magical discipline reside within, offering training and various magical wares.


Upon visiting the College, it can be joined by passing a test of merit which requires the casting of a spell. The College must be joined during "Elder Knowledge" in order to progress the main quest. However, this can be avoided if the Dragonborn travels directly to Septimus Signus' Outpost to pick up the next part of the quest there.

Before entering the College, the gatekeeper, Faralda, will wish to see a demonstration of the Dragonborn's magical powers. She requests to see a spell appropriate for the Dragonborn's level before gaining passage. These spells include:

Although she does not state it explicitly, some spells (e.g. Fear) must be cast at the emblem on the ground or she ignores it. If the spell she requests has not yet been learned, she offers to sell it for 30 GoldIcon. The gate beyond the bridge does not open until the proper spell has been demonstrated for Faralda.


A high-level persuasion check bypasses this test. Additionally, revealing one's Dragonborn-identity to Faralda causes her to ask for a Thu'um demonstration. Successfully using it bypasses the spell-casting test. This option can only be used during the quest "Elder Knowledge."

Rules and expulsion

Killing a student causes other College members to refuse speaking with the killer, starting the quest "Rejoining the College." Stealing items from college members is also considered a crime if caught.

Architectural design

Collegemapkey 03

A map of the College of Winterhold. Notable locations are indicated with numbers.

The College of Winterhold is located just north of Winterhold, on a large cliff. A narrow bridge in a state of disrepair connects the city to the College.

The central courtyard is dominated by a statue of the first Arch-Mage of the College, Shalidor, who is also the supposed founder of the city; this is the hub of the facility, offering access back out to the bridge and into the three Halls. The exterior windows offer exceptional views of the coastline.

The courtyard branches off to the three halls of the College. The Hall of Attainment, the living quarters for mage apprentices, is off to the left upon entering the College, while the Hall of Countenance, the living quarters for more advanced mages, is off to the right. Straight ahead lies the Hall of the Elements, the lecture hall of the College.

From the Hall of the Elements, the Arch-Mage's Quarters branches off on the left while The Arcanaeum, the College's library, branches off on the right.

The Midden, a prison or storage area beneath the College, houses the Atronach Forge, the Augur of Dunlain, and a Daedric Relic encountered in the quest "Forgotten Names." Ice Wraiths, Draugr, and Frostbite Spiders inhabit the halls of The Midden. A tunnel here leads to the outside just outside of the College.


TESV Banner Winterhold

The banner of The College of Winterhold.

Winterhold was once a great, powerful and wealthy hold[1] [2], and its relationship with the College of Winterhold was good.[3]

In 4E 122, an unprecedented, cataclysmic event struck Winterhold and most of the areas along the coastline. A massive storm came in from the Sea of Ghosts, which brought huge waves which crashed into Winterhold. Most of the city fell into the sea, leaving the city in ruins both physically in terms of the destruction of the city itself, and the emotional and psychological damage to Winterhold's people. This event would eventually be referred to as "The Great Collapse." The disaster left Winterhold in ruins, and some had said that things would never be the same again, including Winterhold's relationship with the College. The people of Winterhold would eventually begin to blame the College for causing the Great Collapse.[4] Winterhold has yet to recover from the Great Collapse.[5][6][7]

Historical documents

Papers kept in the College's library are meant to prove its age, reportedly dating back 700 years. However, dialogue with Serana in the Dawnguard add-on reveals it to be much older, as she recalls the College from before she was entombed in the First or perhaps even Merethic Era. Mirabelle Ervine also states in her tour of the grounds that the College has been a "fixture" of Skyrim for thousands of years.[8]

The first recorded evidence of the College's existence is Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Skyrim. Arguably, the documents in the College are not meant to date the institution's age, as noted in the Pocket Guide to the Empire that the College became home to an older library of documents, the Ysmir Collective.[2]

Relation to the Mages Guild

As the College was independent from the Mages Guild, Necromancy was never made illegal by the College, unlike the Mages Guild in Cyrodiil. For the College of Winterhold, the practice was generally regarded as a tool, not a weapon, although practicing it outside of the College was, and is, not advised.[9] Like Cyrodiil, there were still wandering groups of Necromancers that did not function alongside the College. Since the College was independent of the jurisdiction of the Mages Guild, it was unaffected by the Necromancy Ban of 3E 431 and the subsequent eradication of that ban which led to battles against Mannimarco.



The College is often blamed for the Great Collapse of 4E 122 and is therefore widely distrusted. It is often believed that it was activities at the College that caused the disaster; the only evidence supporting this is that only the College remained almost untouched. The College has since been cautious as to avoid provoking the population of Skyrim.[10][11] Many nationalistic Nords also do not trust the College because of the fact that the immigrant Dunmer make up the majority of the members within the faction. Additionally, most Nords view magic and its practitioners as spineless and weak.[12][13]

The only positive relation the people of Skyrim have to the College of Winterhold are requests for various items to be enchanted for them. Sergius Turrianus explains that enchanting services are the one of the few connections between the College and the people of Skyrim.[14] Occasionally, he will have his students travel to a specific location in Skyrim to pick up an item from a person who made a request to the College to have the item enchanted.[15]


Lectures are held in the Hall of the Elements during the day. These cover a wide range of subjects and the Dragonborn is welcome to listen, provided they have joined the College.

Colette Marence: Restoration

Faralda: The Synod and The College of Whispers

Drevis Neloren: Doomstones

Urag gro-Shub: Shalidor's writings

Phinis Gestor: Eye of Magnus



Joining the College opens a questline consisting of eight main quests and eight side quests, one of which is radiant. There are three potential followers associated with the guild, becoming available once their three personal quests are completed. Three unique achievements can be unlocked by completing tasks for the College: Gatekeeper - Join the College of Winterhold; Revealing the Unseen - Complete "Revealing the Unseen"; and "The Eye of Magnus" - Complete "The Eye of Magnus."

Main quests

College of Winterhold quests


Under Saarthal.

Side quests


The Eye of Magnus.

Follower quests

Master-level spell quests


Colette Marence

Colette Marence, expert Restoration trainer.

Former Members



Gatekeeper (Achievement)
Join the College of Winterhold
Points 10 Gamer points
Bronze trophy

Revealing the Unseen (Achievement)
Revealing the Unseen
Complete "Revealing the Unseen"
Points 10 Gamer points
Bronze trophy

The Eye of Magnus (Achievement)
The Eye of Magnus
Complete "The Eye of Magnus"
Points 30 Gamer points
Silver trophy


  • As with most other places in Skyrim, the College is a possible spawning place for dragons―sometimes several dragons. The most commonly encountered dragon around level 20 and higher is the Blood Dragon and will usually respawn.
  • When seen from above, the College's structure greatly resembles the Magical diagrams found in Shalidor's Insights.
  • Just beneath the floor of the College quarters, there are four chests containing various high-leveled robes, tomes, soul gems, quest items, and other mage-oriented gear organized by magic school. They can be accessed on the PC version by typing tcl into the console to toggle no-clipping mode and enable walking through solid surfaces. On the console versions, these chests are randomly accessible due to bugs in the game's texture loading system. There might occasionally be a missing floor tile in the Hall of the Elements, revealing one of the chests. It is then reachable by crouching close to the chest without touching the broken floor. All objects taken from these chests are considered stolen.
  • Even after joining the College, Farengar Secret-Fire in Dragonsreach still says, "You know, if you have the aptitude, you should join the mages' college in Winterhold."
  • The College of Winterhold has more teachers than students at the time the Dragonborn joins.
  • In the Hall of Elements, the teachers and librarian will hold speeches about their particular subject. Once their speeches are completed, everyone returns to their daily positions.
  • After completing "Arniel's Endeavor" it is possible to see Arniel's Shade wandering around the College and even sleeping in his room.
  • By some people at the College, it was said the College of Winterhold was the most famous mages guild before the Great Collapse. Some say that people from all over Tamriel would visit Skyrim just to join the College.
  • It is possible to enter the College of Winterhold without becoming an apprentice. One can enter by standing on the edge of the bridge and using the "Whirlwind Sprint" shout to fly through the side of the building. However, all three words of the shout must be learned, as the length between the bridge and the opening is too far for only the first or first two words. It is also possible to return back to the bridge using the same method.
  • The ruins of buildings underneath the main bridge are most likely remaining debris from the Great Collapse.
  • One can gain access to the College via climbing the rocks underneath, then glitching up more rocks and into the Midden. One can then travel through the Midden Dark and then the Midden up into the College. However, as one is not a member (because they were not greeted by Faralda on the bridge, and proved themselves to her), there will be some notable differences in the College:
    • One cannot ask for training in any school of magic.
    • It is impossible to ask for side quests. Arniel Gane has the dialogue option, but he will decline.
    • The gate to the bridge is key-locked, meaning it cannot be picked open.
    • Mirabelle Ervine and Ancano's conversation does not play out.
However, one can still buy spells and other mage goods from the teachers there, as well as sell the Elder Scrolls to Urag gro-Shub. In order to leave the College, one must leave via Fast Travel or leave via the Midden trapdoor, as the main gate is locked. In order to get back in, one needs to talk to Faralda or glitch in via the Midden again.
  • The Midden is the only internal area to feature music.
  • The Hall of the Elements is the only area that cannot be waited in.
  • Joining the College is required for part the quest Forbidden Legend.


This section contains bugs related to College of Winterhold. Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:

  1. Please reload an old save to confirm if the bug is still happening.
  2. If the bug is still occurring, please post the bug report with the appropriate system template  360  / XB1  ,  PS3  / PS4  ,  PC  / MAC  , depending on which platform(s) the bug has been encountered on.
  3. Be descriptive when listing the bug and fixes, but avoid having conversations in the description and/or using first-person-anecdotes: such discussions belong on the appropriate forum board.




Start a Discussion Discussions about College of Winterhold

  • Best faction order? What do you join first?

    51 messages
    • join bards college first cos their all trash
    • Lol I always forget this one. You can't complain about the high number of quests.
  • 1st mage : what spells and armors?

    18 messages
    • Short answer: if this is your first time as a mage, go battle mage, as in heavy armor and all the spells you can learn. Long answer: Armor wi...
    • i like to use heavy/light armor bracers with a hood/circlet, robes and sometimes a sword. a good desruction spell to use is firebolt, which is ...