There are many things unclear about the ASVA student union. Is the name an abbreviation, is the union an association? Ans what does it stand for? Where does the name come from, and how did ASVA come into being?

On the 25th of May 1945, the General Student Association Amsterdam (ASVA) was founded, sprouting from the student resistance that had taken place in the years before. Like today, ASVA was the discussion partner of the UvA and the local and national government. Besides its politically-oriented activities, ASVA was already offering a variety of services to its student members: negotiation for housing, discounts, book sales, student restaurants and Academic Health Care.

In the 60’s, ASVA underwent a transformation. Influenced by the political activism of this age, the association developed into an activist student union. Because of this, the association got separated into a services branch (OBAS) and an activist branch, the ASVA. Only in 1997, the two were reunited again and in 1999, the Student Union Amsterdam (SUA) joined as well.

Because of this merging, ASVA no longer represented the abbreviation from 1945, and thus the current organisation was created: the ASVA student union.


In its 70-years existence, ASVA has accomplished a lot. Today, many services are still being provided: the housing office, legal office, ASVA Academy, bike sale and of course the student desk to answer all students’ questions. But, ASVA also retained its activist character. Back in 1969, ASVA was already active during the occupation of the Maagdenhuis, and history repeated itself in 2015. Apart from these protests, ASVA has organised a large number of actions itself. In 2001, the Bachelor-Master manifestation was being organised with great success. In 2010, ASVA organised a demonstration on Dam square against budget cuts in higher education. With 5.000 students participating, the turnout was historically high.

ASVA makes its voice heard against budget cuts on higher education in 2012
ASVA poster action against the merging of the UvA and VU beta faculties in 2013

In 2014 and 2016, an ASVA staff member has written two protest songs against the student loan system. He even performed with these songs during the protests at the Malieveld (the Hague).

In debt until I retire

The Law of Jet


Throughout the years, ASVA didn’t only develop as an organisation itself, but also started a number of other initiatives. For instance, the Youth Culture Card (Dutch abbr. CJP) emerged as an ASVA initiative. Also, ASVA founded a student travel organisation, today known as part of NBBS-student travels. Furthermore, ASVA started the UvA Cultural Festival, later renamed as Amsterdam Student Festival and today known as In de Diamantfabriek. The Intreeweek and HvA Experience, now independent organisations, used to fall under ASVA.

ASVA is also active outside of Amsterdam in starting new organisations. For example, ASVA started the National Student Union (Dutch abbr. LSVc) and the Intercity Student Council (Dutch abbr. ISO).


Do you want to know more about the history of student movement in the Netherlands? At the International Institute for Social History (Internationaal Instituut Sociale Geschiedenis, IISG), you can find more than 65 meters of ASVA archives.

Maarten van Poelgeest: in 2010, Van Poelgeest was appointed honorary member of ASVA, thanks to his effort for students interest.