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.
Many outsiders view the College with indignation, believing its members to be the cause of the cataclysmic "Great Collapse", which occurred in 4E 122. The event left Winterhold in ruins, in terms of physical destruction, with the vast majority of Winterhold destroyed, the destabilization of its government, economy and social structure, and the lasting emotional and psychological damage to Winterhold's people, who from then on believed that the College of Winterhold was to blame for the Great Collapse.
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. 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".
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 . 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
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.
The Midden, a prison or storage area beneath the College, houses an Atronach Forge, the Augur of Dunlain, and the Daedric Relic. Ice Wraiths and Draugr inhabit the halls of The Midden. A tunnel here leads to Skyrim just outside of the College.
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 event left Winterhold in ruins, and some had said that things would never be the same again, including Winterhold's relationship with the College of Winterhold. The people of Winterhold would eventually begin to blame the College for causing the Great Collapse. Winterhold has never really recovered from the Great Collapse.
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.
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.
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 advised against by Phinis Gestor. 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.  Many nationalistic Nords also do not trust the College because of the fact that the immigrant Dunmer make up the vast majority of the members within the faction. Additionally, most Nords view magic and its practitioners as spineless and weak, as stated quite humorously by a pair of feuding siblings upon entering Winterhold.
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 only connection between the College and the people of Skyrim. 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.
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 the college has been joined.
|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.
|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.
|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.
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.
|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.
College of Winterhold quests
- First Lessons
- Under Saarthal
- Hitting the Books
- Good Intentions
- Revealing the Unseen
- The Staff of Magnus
- The Eye of Magnus
- Arniel's Endeavor
- Daedric Relic
- Out of Balance
- Finding Tolfdir's Alembic
- Fetch Me That Book!
- Shalidor's Insights
- Lost Apprentices
- Rejoining the College
Master-level spell quests
- Alteration Ritual Spell
- Conjuration Ritual Spell
- Destruction Ritual Spell
- Illusion Ritual Spell
- Restoration Ritual Spell
- Savos Aren – Arch-Mage
- Mirabelle Ervine – Master Wizard
- Tolfdir – Scholar of Alteration magic
- Colette Marence – Scholar of Restoration magic
- Faralda – Scholar of Destruction magic
- Drevis Neloren – Scholar of Illusion magic
- Phinis Gestor – Scholar Conjurer
- Sergius Turrianus – Scholar Enchanter
- Urag gro-Shub – Librarian and Scholar
- Nirya – Scholar
- Arniel Gane – Scholar
- Enthir – Scholar and Black Market trader
- Wuunferth the Unliving – Court Wizard of Windhelm
- Brelyna Maryon – Student
- Onmund – Student
- J'zargo – Student
- Ancano – Not an actual member of the College, but is an advisor from the Thalmor.
- Colette Marence – Expert Restoration trainer
- Drevis Neloren – Master Illusion trainer
- Faralda – Master Destruction trainer
- Sergius Turrianus – Expert Enchanting trainer
- Tolfdir – Master Alteration trainer
- Phinis Gestor – Expert Conjuration trainer
Join the College of Winterhold
| Revealing the Unseen|
Complete "Revealing the Unseen"
| The Eye of Magnus|
Complete "The Eye of Magnus"
- 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.
- 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
tclinto 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 may 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, Colette Marence will host a meeting with all the teachers including the librarian, to explain that the school of Restoration is essential to the school of magic. When her speech is 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 will 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 the 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 is most likely debris from the Great Collapse.
This section contains bugs related to College of Winterhold (Skyrim). Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:
|Click to see the list of bugs encountered.|
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 On the Great Collapse - Deneth
- ↑ Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Skyrim
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Skyrim
- ↑ Loading Screens (Skyrim)
- ↑ The Holds of Skyrim
- ↑ Dialogue with Savos Aren
- ↑ Dialogue with Jarl Korir
- ↑ Dialogue with Sergius Turrianus
- ↑ Events of Enchanting Pick-Up
- ↑ Butcher Journal 1