Was it a requirement at Hogwarts that a teacher could only head the very same house which was their house when they were a student?

As we know from this answer, Minerva McGonagall was a Gryffindor herself and Filius Flitwick was a Ravenclaw himself. And of course we all know that Severus Snape was a Slytherin.

So this raises the question, was this a prerequisite for the position, or just a preference or coincidence?

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    There is potentially the trivial case of the founders of the houses, obviously they weren't in the houses as students. It might still be compulsory under the rules, just with an exception (like how a heredity rulership wasn't hereditary the first time). Aug 10, 2017 at 16:10
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    Compulsory is the wrong word. That suggests that someone selected to head a house must change their house to the house they are heading. The word you are looking for is required, or requirement.
    – J Doe
    Aug 10, 2017 at 22:46
  • @starpilotsix The founders weren't students in their own house, but of course they belonged to it! How could Godric Gryffindor *not* be a Gryffindor? :-) (the same for the other three founders)
    – lfurini
    Aug 11, 2017 at 18:45
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    @lfurini yea, but when Slythetin left mybe there wasn't any Slytherin graduate yet to replace him as head of his house, so could be that at some point one of the three other founders was also head of Slytherin.
    – user68762
    Aug 11, 2017 at 19:55
  • @lfurini Yes, but the question asks specifically if they had to have been students in the house before heading it, not if they had to belong to it. I mean, you could also posit that a hypothetical wizard who was not a Slytherin student but became the head of Slytherin BELONGS to the house in some sense once they became a head of it (or maybe some ceremony inducting them is part of the process of becoming the head). Aug 11, 2017 at 21:38

3 Answers 3


J. K. Rowling has a relevant quote in the FAQ on her old website:

If a teacher is head of a house, can we assume that they were sorted into those houses when they were students at Hogwarts? Is that also true for the house ghosts? So was Snape a Slytherin?

Yes, if the teacher is Head of House you can indeed assume that they were pupils within that house. So Snape was very definitely a Slytherin and yes, the same is true of the house ghosts.

This doesn't completely answer the question, because it might only apply to the heads of house we meet in the book.

See also the relevant question What's the breakdown of Hogwart's Professor in Houses?


There is no evidence to the contrary.

The 5 heads of house we know are

All 5 of these heads were also in those houses in their time at Hogwarts initially. Whether that's coincidence, because they know the house, or because they represent the qualities of that house is not said.

Curiously, the wiki says this, emphasis mine:

Severus Snape was made Head of Slytherin at the remarkably young age of twenty-one, when he only just returned Hogwarts. It may be that he was the only teacher who was in Slytherin, following the retirement of Horace Slughorn in 1981. When Slughorn returned in 1996, Snape jealously guarded the prerogatives of the Headship, suggesting the teacher may not have to retire to lose the role.

link to the article

However, as we all know, the wiki isn't fantastic and I have no idea where they get that info from.

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    Wasn't Dumbledore also head of Gryffindor?
    – Rivasa
    Aug 10, 2017 at 20:18
  • @Annabelle I was under that vague impression as well during his time as a transfiguration professor, but nothing I have found supports it, besides, he was also a Gryffindor so it wouldn't change the answer. He was Head Boy, maybe that's what we're both thinking of? Aug 10, 2017 at 20:21
  • The only moment I can think of that might shed light on this is the memory in the pensieve where Harry observes Myrtle's body being transported through the castle and then-Professor of Transfiguration Dumbledore is there, and he stops Tom Riddle for questioning. But I don't think it's mentioned. Probably a safe bet that he was Head of Gryffindor, though.
    – TylerH
    Aug 10, 2017 at 20:48
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    @TylerH it doesn't state it explicitly afaik but yes, it makes sense that McGonagal succeeded Dumbledore not only in transfiguration but as head of house for Gryffindor too Aug 10, 2017 at 21:13

If they were leading that House they would also presumably be a good fit for it personality-wise, so presumably the heads of the houses would be people who had either been in that house themselves or could have been sorted into the House. There was a concerted effort to maintain a particular kind of culture in a House (which was part of the point of the Sorting Hat in the first place), meaning that both the head of that House and the students who were selected to be members of it should be good cultural fits for it. In fact, that was part of the point of the House system to begin with.

The system didn't end up working perfectly, of course, but by and large people did exemplify the values associated with their house. Notable exceptions included

Professor Gilderoy Lockhart was in Ravenclaw in spite of his notorious ineptitude, and Peter Pettigrew was in Gryffindor in spite of his cowardice and treachery.

There are, of course, some people who would've fit in multiple Houses. For example, Hermione could've been in Ravenclaw, Neville could've been in Hufflepuff, and the Sorting Hat wanted to put Harry in Slytherin initially. (The main reason that Harry wasn't in Slytherin is that he begged the Sorting Hat to put him in a different House instead and the hat took his choice into consideration).

Snape himself evidently could've been in Gryffindor, at least by the time that the books took place. Dumbledore said that Snape was courageous and that sometimes he thinks that they sort too early, which implies that he was a good fit for Slytherin at the time that he was sorted but became a good fit for Gryffindor later due to his actions in being a double agent for Dumbledore. Also, Harry later referred to Snape as the bravest person he knew.

It's not clear from the books if those individuals could have been eligible to be Heads of the other houses.

TL;DR Odds are the Head of House would've been from that House whether it was formally required or not because both the students and the Head of House were expected to be good cultural fits for the House.


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