Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter/Places/Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry

Muggles' Guide to Harry Potter - Place
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Location Scotland
Permanent Residents Albus Dumbledore, Minerva McGonagall, Rubeus Hagrid, Sybill Trelawney, Argus Filch, Firenze, Peeves, Nearly Headless Nick, The Grey Lady, The Bloody Baron, The Fat Friar, Moaning Myrtle, Sir Cadogan, The Fat Lady, etc.
First Appearance Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

General Overview edit

View of Hogwarts Castle and the surrounding areas.

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry "is the best school of wizardry in Great Britain", according to Rubeus Hagrid. In fact, the author has implied that it is the only school of wizardry in Britain — while every Wizarding child can go to Hogwarts, the author states that not all do choose to do so. Also, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, it is stated that before Lord Voldemort's takeover of the Ministry of Magic, parents of Wizarding children could, instead of sending them to Hogwarts, homeschool them or send them abroad if they so wished, implying that those were the only three options available. The events of the first six books of the Harry Potter series, and the climax of the seventh book, occur largely in and around this school, which Harry attends to get his education from the time he turns 11.

Extended Description edit

Beginner warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.

Founded roughly a thousand years before the events of the series by the four Founders (Godric Gryffindor, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff and Salazar Slytherin), Hogwarts, the premier Wizarding school in Britain, is housed in a large magically-active castle near the Wizarding village of Hogsmeade. The castle itself is protected by Anti-Apparition wards (preventing an attacker from suddenly appearing in its midst), and Muggle-Repellent charms (to the occasional Muggle who is determined to approach, the castle is spelled to look like a dangerous ruin, with keep-away warning signs posted). The Forbidden Forest, adjacent to the school grounds, contains many wild magical creatures, some of which are actively hostile towards humans, Wizarding or not. Situated at the edge of the Forest, the Groundskeeper's Hut, where Rubeus Hagrid ("Keeper of the Keys and Grounds") lives, is well-placed for looking after the subjects of each Care of Magical Creatures class (taught by Hagrid starting in Harry's third year).

The Hogwarts student body is Sorted at enrollment (by the Sorting Hat), along lines of aptitude and predilection, into four Houses named after the four Founders (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin) and nurturing those characteristics each Founder thought most important. Since even the Founders were unable to keep solidarity (Salazar Slytherin left after a legendary dispute with the others), the Houses, each with a professor who doubles as the Head of that House, tend towards friction and rivalry, particularly between Slytherin and Gryffindor.

The rivalries usually confine themselves to Quidditch (each House fields a team of players, vying for the Quidditch Cup) and the House Cup competition (Houses are awarded points for student excellence and penalized points for student misbehavior and indolence, leading to an end-of-year tally and award).

At the start of the Harry Potter series, the House Heads are:

  • Severus Snape, Head of Slytherin, who teaches Potions. Slytherin House nurtures self-sufficient cunning, resourcefulness and ambition.
  • Filius Flitwick, Head of Ravenclaw, who teaches Charms. Ravenclaw House nurtures thoughtful scholarship and intellectual brilliance.
  • Pomona Sprout, Head of Hufflepuff, who teaches Herbology and runs the school's greenhouses. Hufflepuff House nurtures hard work, tolerance and loyalty.

Albus Dumbledore holds the position of Headmaster of Hogwarts, in addition to his public duties on the Wizengamot (and his later covert activities with the Order of the Phoenix).

Argus Filch, a Squib, is the castle's Custodian, aided by unknown numbers of House-Elves who clean and cook. There is at least one resident ghost for each House (Gryffindor has Nearly Headless Nick, Hufflepuff has The Fat Friar, Ravenclaw has The Grey Lady, and Slytherin has The Bloody Baron), plus Peeves The Poltergeist, who is allowed residence by Dumbledore to "keep everyone on their toes". Poppy Pomfrey is the Medi-Witch who runs the Hospital Wing, the school Infirmary. Irma Pince runs the school's Library and guards the dangerous books in its Restricted Section.

Castle security is assisted by the House Ghosts, and by the many Wizarding portraits (paintings where the depicted person can speak and move from frame to frame), such as Phineas Nigellus, The Fat Lady, and Sir Cadogan, which password-protect some passages and monitor the rooms and corridors.

Possible locations of the European witchcraft schools in Harry Potter. Click on the map for a more descriptive text

J.K. Rowling has said in an interview that Hogwarts is somewhere in Scotland; its position is uncertain, because it is Charmed to be Unplottable – its position, like that of the other magic schools, cannot be placed on a map. Additionally, it is hidden by spells that make it appear to Muggles as an old ruin, complete with Danger signs. The map here shows the most likely locations of the three schools of wizardry in Europe. For Hogwarts specifically, this article makes the following assumptions: Hogwarts is not in the most populated areas of Scotland since in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire it is said that the nearest Muggle town is several miles away (a situation that does not exist around Edinburgh and Glasgow). Also are excluded the Scottish Islands, since one can go to Hogwarts by train from London.

Map legend:

Colour Description
Most probable locations for Hogwarts
Primary recruitment ground for Hogwarts
Secondary recruitment ground for Hogwarts
Most probable locations for Beauxbatons
Primary recruitment ground for Beauxbatons
Secondary recruitment ground for Beauxbatons
Most probable locations for Durmstrang
Primary recruitment ground for Durmstrang
Secondary recruitment ground for Durmstrang
Country without an obvious wizarding school to go to
Sea / lake

Academics edit

The school year at Hogwarts is broken into four terms.

  • Autumn term starts at the first of September with the arrival of the students, and continues to the start of the Christmas holidays, usually in late December.
  • Winter term extends from the end of the Christmas holidays to the beginning of the Easter break, usually in mid to late March or early April.
  • Spring term runs from the end of Easter break to the start of exams, which occur during the first full week (or two weeks) in June.
  • Summer term comprises the time from the last day of exams to the end of classes at the end of June.

Summer term, a short term, is usually seen as a time to laze around and rest from the year; exams are finished, and while there may be one last Quidditch game between the houses, and there are classes still, most peoples' marks are pretty well settled, so things are taken rather lightly.

All subjects are elective after fifth-year OWL exams; you are only allowed to proceed in a subject if your OWL grades are high enough for the teacher of that course. Until and including fifth year, you must take certain core subjects. The subjects available at Hogwarts are given below:

  • Ancient Runes, the study of interpreting runes or magical symbols
    • Teacher: unknown, possibly Bathsheba Babbling
  • Charms (core subject), the study of magic spells that do not change the basic nature of the subject
  • Divination, studying ways of predicting the future (including reading tea leaves, palmistry, magic orb reading, dream interpretation)
    • Teachers: Sybill Trelawney (until midway through fifth year, re-instated sixth year), Firenze (from midway through fifth year on)
    • 'the most difficult of all magical arts'
    • 'one of the most imprecise branches of magic'
  • Flying Lessons, teaching the students how to fly using a broomstick, usually taken during the first year
  • Herbology (core subject), study the care and magical properties of magical plants and fungi

Class sizes and duration edit

Hogwarts classes are held in different locations within the castle and grounds. Class usually last for one and a half hours, even if they are shared by two Houses. Higher years often have "double" classes, which means they last three hours; Potions classes quite often are double, because potion preparation can take longer than a single class would have time for. There are three class periods, typically, in the morning, and three in the afternoon.

Class size is typically thirty students, according to information in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This gives a total student population of about 840, or 210 in each House.

Grades Classification edit

Grades classification refer here are only given in the student's essay works, quizzes, assignments, homework and examinations.

  • Passing Grades
    • O - Outstanding
    • E - Exceeds Expectations
    • A - Acceptable
  • Failing Grades
    • P - Poor
    • D - Dreadful
    • T - Troll

Examinations Given edit

Final examinations are held each year between the end of spring or Easter term and the start of Summer term, and these exams must be passed in order to advance to the next year. In the books, one or two characters (Flint and possibly Goyle) apparently are held back a year. There are also two major examinations for Hogwarts students:

  • O.W.L.s (Ordinary Wizarding Levels) - 'the examinations Hogwarts student took at the age of fifteen' (actually in their fifth year – anyone having a birthday during the school year would be sixteen when they sat these exams) and 'really important, affect the job you can apply for and everything'. These are equivalent to the O-level or GCSE exams in England.
  • N.E.W.T. (Nastily Exhausting Wizarding Test) - examination taken in the seventh year at Hogwarts, roughly equivalent to the old-style English A-level exams.

Life at Hogwarts edit

Hogwarts is a very traditional British secondary boarding school, but magical education necessitates many differences. There are few modern facilities, indeed the castle has no electricity. This is largely due to the presence of high levels of magical energy fields that cause electrical and electronic devices to malfunction. Heating is provided by fireplaces and stoves maintained by a large staff of house elves. House elves also prepare three meals a day for students and staff as well as several feasts throughout the year. The food is varied, excellent and plentiful. The castle does have a relatively modern plumbing system including public rest rooms and at least one luxurious magical bath.

Letters and parcels are usually delivered to students during breakfast in the Great Hall by owls who bring them directly to individuals. Both school and privately owned owls reside in a common owlery.

The school has a large library that includes a restricted section for advanced texts requiring faculty permission to read. The resident librarian, Irma Pince, seems to be almost fanatical in her caring for the books.

Studying and homework are usually done in the house common rooms, the library, the Great Hall around mealtimes, or in the grounds in good weather. Like the rest of the Wizarding world, written work is done with quills, liquid ink in bottles, and parchment. Written assignments are often measured in either the number of scrolls or the length, in inches or feet, of parchment.

Extracurricular activities include Quidditch and a few clubs (dueling and gobstones are mentioned). In addition, third year and older students may, with parental permission, visit the nearby all-Wizard village of Hogsmeade on selected weekends throughout the school year. Leisure time is often spent in the common rooms socializing and playing magical games. In warm weather, students can be found on the grounds or near the Lake, where we often see them playing with the resident giant squid.

Magic from inexperienced wizards, injuries from Quidditch matches, and pranks around the school make Hogwarts a somewhat dangerous place. Therefore, a hospital wing staffed by a matron/nurse/healer is located within the school. Injuries that would kill or maim Muggle students are treated in-house, and full recovery is usually achieved in just a day or two.

Most students return home during the Christmas and Easter breaks, but there are some who stay at Hogwarts over the holidays. Both Christmas and Hallowe'en are celebrated at Hogwarts with decorations and elaborate feasts. Other holidays observed in the books include St. Valentine’s Day and Easter.

Analysis edit

School population edit

As mentioned above, class size is typically thirty students, according to information in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. This gives a total student population of about 840, with 210 (thirty per year, times seven years) or so in each House. Readers may be confused by the fact that at most five boys and five girls of each house in each year are named. At least one fan site has published information apparently received from the author that she had only developed characters for ten students in each year, and had decided that was enough, but that the number of students was intended to be about thirty per house per year. She has also variously given the student population as 600 or 1,000.

Against this, we have the information in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone that "twenty broomsticks were laid out in neat lines" for the combined Gryffindor and Slytherin first-years flying lessons. Carrying through the calculations, we would determine the total school population to be 280 at most, 70 in each House.

It is not the place of this book to try and resolve this apparent contradiction. We do note that all descriptions that imply entire houses or the entire school, rather than naming individual students, do seem to fit a population of about 800 students better than they fit a population of 280. We will suggest that we hear more from, and see more of, the students in Harry's dormitory simply because Harry, sharing a dormitory with them, is much more familiar with them. While this is not suggested in the books, it is possible that there are two other dormitories for students in Harry's year, each having five other unnamed students, in both the girls' side and the boys' side of Gryffindor tower.

As a small point of interest, this allows us to calculate the Wizarding population of the United Kingdom, assuming that Hogwarts draws its students from the UK. If the class size is 30, as stated above, Hogwarts, which is believed to be the only Wizarding school in the UK, has space for 120 students per year. Assuming a slightly longer-than-Muggle life span of 85 years for wizards, simple multiplication gives us a population approximation of 10,200 wizards in all of the UK, or roughly 1 wizard for every 6000 Muggles (UK population 58,000,000 in 1997). Extending this admittedly tenuous reasoning, we can extrapolate a world population of 1 million wizards (based on a 2000 world population of 6 billion individuals). Note that this does conflict with the author's statement, given in an interview, that there are about 3,000 wizards in the UK; but the author has further said that her mathematics is a definite weak point. If we accept the author's estimate of 3,000 wizards in the UK, the Hogwarts class size (per house) drops to 10, and the total world Wizarding population drops to 300,000, or one for about every 20,000 Muggles.

We further note that in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the author mentions that the Quidditch World Cup expects an attendance of about 100,000 wizards. This tends to suggest that the higher figure for wizard population, approximately 1,000,000 wizards, is more likely; we find it unrealistic to expect that a solid third of the Wizarding population would be able to take the necessary time off, typically two weeks or longer, to attend even as popular an event as this, but one tenth of the population is a much more reasonable figure.

Other fan sites have noted that there are not enough teachers for the stated school population. Working from the description of the Potions courses, we see that this is generally a double course, two periods and two Houses each class. In the NEWT-level classes, all four Houses are taught together. Thus, the Potions instructor must be teaching two sections in each of five years, plus one section in each of two NEWT-level years, for a total of twelve sections. As these are double classes, we can assume that most other teachers will be teaching twice as many sections, typically about twenty-four. Even those courses that are not core subjects, such as Care of Magical Creatures and Divination, and are not offered for the students' first two years, will involve, typically, sixteen sections. Yet, as we learn at the end of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the most courses that can be taken without the aid of a Time-Turner is ten; if it is impossible for a student to take more than ten courses, then equally it is impossible for a teacher to teach more than ten sections. Thus, there must be a large number of teachers who we never meet. To add to this we have the apparent impossibility of Dolores Umbridge not only teaching her own classes, but also being present to inspect all of Hagrid's and all of Sybill Trelawney's classes, thus effectively tripling her workload. Again, it is not the place of this book to resolve this contradiction. We will point out that adding the apparently-necessary additional teachers would have the effect of significantly diluting the story line.

Questions edit

Study questions are meant to be left for each student to answer; please don't answer them here.

  1. Hogwarts is Unplottable. How, then, can the Marauders' Map exist?
  2. How does Hogwarts meet its expenses? There is never any mention of school fees, and Harry certainly is never called upon to pay any.
  3. How do Muggle-born students manage to cover expenses, if they are not supported by school bursary, as Tom Riddle was? Is there any exchange where Muggle money could be interchanged with Wizard world money?

Greater Picture edit

Intermediate warning: Details follow which you may not wish to read at your current level.