Elder Scrolls
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"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 to members.


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:

Several of the spells require more than the starting 100 Magicka so perks, leveling, or enchanted equipment may be necessary. Although she does not state it explicitly, some spells (e.g. Fear) must be cast at the emblem on the ground or she will ignore it. If the spell she requests has not yet been learned, she offers to sell it for 30 Gold. 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 identity as the Dragonborn causes Faralda to ask for a demonstration of the Thu'um. 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 to speak 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 Skyrim overworld 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 reportedly date back to the late Second Era.[6] Serana in the Dawnguard add-on corroborates this date, recalling that the College existed when she was entombed between the Second and Third empires.[8][UL 1] However, Mirabelle Ervine states in her tour of the grounds that the College has been a "fixture" of Skyrim for thousands of years.[9]

Written evidence of the College's existence is found in the Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Skyrim from 3E 433, which describes the growth of the city of Winterhold after the College obtained a group of documents known as the Ysmir Collective,[2] and the Atlas of Dragons from 2E 373, which documents dragons slain throughout history.[10]

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.[11] 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 seal of the College of Winterhold.

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.[12][13] 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.[14][15]

The only positive relationship the people of Skyrim have with the College of Winterhold are requests for various items to be enchanted for them. Sergius Turrianus explains that enchanting services are one of the few connections between the College and the people of Skyrim.[16] 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.[17]


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

Click to view the lecture.

"I would just like to remind everyone, once again, that Restoration is indeed a valid school of magic. It is absolutely worthy of research, despite many of the notes I've had left in my bed. And my desk. And on occasion, my meals. Anyone suggesting that Restoration is better left to the priests of the Temples, I think, is forgetting a few things.

Firstly, the ability to repel the undead cannot be ignored. Skyrim is well known to be full of these... Draugr, ancient Nord warriors who cannot find peace. I submit that everyone in this College has, at one time or another, relied on one of the Restoration spells that can keep them at bay.

Secondly, how can anyone forget wards? They have become essential to any mage working in dangerous situations. They are counted upon every bit as much as Candlelight, or Invisibility. But more importantly, wards have saved lives. This is a simple fact. Every mage in this College regularly uses wards for practice, so as to avoid physical harm. I truly hope that these points actually sink in, and that more care and thought is given to this subject in the future. Thank you."

Faralda: The Synod and The College of Whispers

Click to view the lecture.

"It is no secret that both the Synod and the College of Whispers have recently made inquiries as to the status of our College here in Winterhold. At this time, there is no indication that either group is aware of the other's correspondence. The College of Winterhold has thus far declined requests for direct meetings. This has been at the specific request of Arch-Mage Aren.

Aren believed that although the initial communications were innocent enough, they were sent with a particular motive in mind. The Synod's harsh rules and draconian structure are maintained only by suppressing any opposition to their Council's policies. It is entirely possible that they look to our College here in Winterhold in order to find supporters for their organization. Likewise, the College of Whispers has long been driven by its desire to directly oppose the Synod. They focus on research banned by the Synod, such as Conjuration and Necromancy. The College of Whispers hopes to learn that our College also supports these avenues of research. Thus they may claim that the Synod is indeed a political minority in the Empire and should be treated as such.

Our actual position and policies are irrelevant. No matter the facts of the response, it will certainly be twisted to suit the whims of either group. Indeed, it has been jokingly suggested that we send the exact same response to both, which each will warp into support for their side. At present, these two groups do little beyond attempting to gain the attention and favor of the Emperor. They appear to have little interest in real study and research for the sake of gaining knowledge.

Arch-Mage Aren believes that their conflict poses a significant threat to the autonomy of our College, and I concur. Falling in with either would threaten to draw much unwanted attention to our College. If either group goes through less official channels and attempt to contact you directly, please refer them to the College's Master Wizard. Say as little as possible so as to avoid compromising our neutral position."

Drevis Neloren: Doomstones

Click to view the lecture.

"The existence of so-called "Doomstones" throughout Skyrim has been repeatedly verified. The meaning of these stones has not. The prevailing opinion of Skyrim natives is that the stones are indeed magical in nature. While there is no direct evidence of this, it does seem likely.

References to similar stones appear in lore throughout the various Tamrielic cultures. None, however, exactly match the markings or distribution of Skyrim's stones. At present, there is no confirmation of any of the various theories surrounding the nature of these stones. Their relative positions do not indicate that any individual stone is part of a larger, unobserved pattern. Also, their placement throughout Skyrim does not correspond to any known magical phenomenon.

The age of the stones themselves has yet to be officially determined. It has been widely assumed that they were placed during the Merethic Era. Writings from that period, including those of Ysgramor himself, do not mention the stones and thus this idea cannot be verified. Nonetheless, many are drawn to these stones based on the local stories describing them as a source of significant power. The College will continue to research these intriguing objects, and of course any findings will be relayed with all possible haste."

Urag gro-Shub: Shalidor's writings

Click to view the lecture.

"As many know, there is an ongoing effort to research the work of the Archmagus Shalidor. He is most remembered for his great maze of Labyrinthian, said to hold "Glamoril," or the secret of life. While stories have persisted since the First Era, none have ever confirmed the existence of this "Glamoril" or its purpose or function.

The College has developed some theories, however. We know that Shalidor had an understanding of magic that surpassed almost any of either his age or ours. The few works of his that have been recovered suggest that he had an understanding of magic and the world that few have ever achieved. What is interesting is that it appears he was also incredibly prolific, writing on a diverse array of subjects. An array so great, in fact, that it remains a source of curiosity.

What, then, of this Glamoril? It means "secret of life" in elvish. Could this be an explanation for Shalidor's works? Is it possible that it somehow contributed to his work? Perhaps allowed him to live multiple lifetimes in a short span of time? Increased his intelligence and knowledge in ways unfathomable to us? We may never know for certain. The College is always searching for more of Shalidor's writings in an attempt to understand both our knowledge of the man, and of magic in general."

Phinis Gestor: Eye of Magnus

Click to view the lecture.

"Projects are underway to discern the origin and nature of the College's recent find in Saarthal. Any and all theories are currently being considered. Those with ideas should please speak with Mirabelle.

At this time, there is no indication that, as has been rumored, the object is in fact a physical part of Magnus, the god of magic. It has been suggested that the object is a gateway to the realm of Aetherius, but nothing has proven that idea one way or the other. It has been proposed that the object is in fact the entirety of Aurbis in one physical space. This would of course mean that Tamriel, indeed all of Mundus, is actually contained within the sphere.

It further suggests that we are somehow then outside our own existence while looking in at it. While the idea seems dubious at best, it has not, at present, been entirely ruled out."



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."
  • 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.
  • During the introduction, when Faralda lights the stone well, followers may get in the way and get hit by her spell.
  • 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 to the bridge using the same method.
  • 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.
  • The College of Winterhold can be seen from as far away as Solitude. One can get this view from the amphitheater at the Bards College.
  • The persuasion speech check for Faralda to admit the Dragonborn without casting a spell is the highest speech check in the game.


This section contains bugs related to College of Winterhold (Skyrim). 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  ,  NX  /  PS5  ,  XS  , 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.
Click to see the list of bugs encountered.
  •  PC   360   PS3   Rarely, when fast traveling to the College on horseback, the Dragonborn might be hurled off the precipices surrounding the college.
  •  360   There may be a bug where entering the Hall of Attainment during the quest to find the Augur of Dunlain results in Faralda being hostile. Exiting to Skyrim at this time results in everyone outside attacking. Known fix is to reload a previous save.
  • As of Patch 1.3 the "Visit the College of Winterhold" quest may not complete if the persuasion or Dragonborn dialogue options are used.
    •  PC (Fix)   Solution: Type setstage MG01Pointer 200 into the console.
  •  360   Many of the mages at the College can die during dragon attacks, making certain spells and side quests impossible to obtain.
  •  360   If siding with the Stormcloaks during the Civil War, Savos Aren may disappear, preventing the completion of the College questline.
  • Dismissing a follower inside the Hall of the Elements while magic is being practiced causes the mages and the follower to become hostile towards one another. Usually, this causes the follower to be killed due to the multiple magic attacks.
  • Faralda may not recognize that the entry-spell is cast, preventing access to the college through the front gate.
    • Solution: Access The Midden by scaling the rock face the college sits on. The entrance lies at the foot of the cliff, near the back of the college. Upon entering, the other students and teachers treat the Dragonborn as a new student.
  •  PC   While taking the tour of the College, Mirabelle Ervine will sometimes pause and stare after talking about the history of that area.
    • Solution: Talk to her and she will say, "After I show you the grounds, we can talk". She then proceeds with the tour.
  •  PS3   Fast traveling to the College may result in a dead dragon spawning on the roof.
  •  360   Leaving during the tour of the College or during the time when Savos Aren's body needs to be discovered causes the questline to halt and makes it so that it cannot be completed.
  •  360   If a dragon attacks while speaking to Faralda when first entering the College, she will run off to fight it and may not return to the gate afterward, preventing the Dragonborn from joining the College.
  •  360   During "Containment," if the Dragonborn ignores the first objective, "Find the Arch-Mage," by running past his body and down to the town of Winterhold (which is necessary if they want to save Ranmir), the objective is replaced by "Protect the Town of Winterhold," which would have been the second objective had they proceeded normally.
    • If the Dragonborn jumps off the side of the bridge, where it is broken, instead of going through the gate; the Magic Anomalies will not appear unless the Dragonborn goes back up the bridge toward the gate.
  • After becoming the Thieves Guild Master and obtaining the Amulet of Articulation, joining the College by persuading Faralda will not allow the miscellaneous quest "Discover College Of Winterhold" to be completed.
  • An out-of-the-map glitch can be used to get the Staff of Magnus early, however it makes the College of Winterhold questline uncompletable.




Notice: The following are unlicensed references. They are not copyrighted by a ZeniMax Media company, but can still be considered part of The Elder Scrolls lore and are included for completeness.