Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – the GRADnet VRE

What is the VRE?

The VRE (Virtual Research Environment) is your portal to all GRADnet events. The full programme for 2016-17 can be found on the VRE as well as news pages and archives of previous activities. It is also home to student-developed online learning resources developed by those just a year or so ahead of you in response to the statement: “I wish I had known that when I started my PhD”

Visit the Training pages on the VRE to register for a workshop or residential school. All events and courses offered are free to students and count towards your training requirement.

With the start of the new academic year upon us and the GRADnet training programme being launched for the coming year, all PGR students in SEPnet must ensure they have logins for the GRADnet Virtual Research Environment and that these logins are functioning. Your login (also called an OUCU) is of the form AB12345 where AB is normally your two initials.

What do I need it for?

It is vital that all students are able to log in to the VRE and regularly check it for information and enrolment on GRADnet offerings. We have implemented a system for enrolling on GRADnet offerings via the VRE and for most offerings enrolment will only be possible via the VRE. Eventbrite or other registration sites will only be used in exceptional circumstances.

This same system on the VRE allows you to find and search for courses, workshops, residential schools etc that you may be interested in attending or required to attend. It is important that you are able to access it and ensure you are able to use it. These can be found under the Training tab when logged onto the VRE and the GRADnet Training Catalogue entry on that page.

How do I access it?

The VRE is accessible via . It can also be found via the SEPnet website ( under the “SEPnet Graduate Network” menu: SEPnet Graduate Network -> GRADnet’s Virtual Research Environment.

I’m a new student. How do I register?

New Students (or unregistered current students): you will need to register and can do so on At busy times this process may take up to 5 working days, if you have not received account details within 5 days please contact your local GRADnet administration contact.

  • Herts: Kathy Head
  • Kent: Michael Woods
  • The OU: Rosalind Miller
  • Portsmouth: Pippa Bostock
  • QMUL: Maria Turner
  • RHUL: Carmella Froggatt
  • Southampton: Ceris French
  • Surrey: Natasha Ney
  • Sussex: Rebecca Foster

We are anticipating pre-registering the new 2016/17 intake and providing account details at or before the Induction Day on 26th October.

I’ve forgotten my password. What do I do?

If you have an existing account but have forgotten the password you can reset your password by calling the OU’s Student Computing and Distribution Helpdesk on 01908 653972 and ask for your “visitor SAMS password” to be reset. You will need to know your username (OUCU) and may be asked to confirm your date of birth. If you are unable to call the helpdesk then you can email but please note that it can take longer to reset your password by email. DO NOT use the “password reset” link on the OU sign on screen. 

If you are experiencing problems with resetting your password, e.g., your date of birth is not on your OU visitor record, please contact

I attempted to logon to the VRE and clicked the reset password link but am still waiting.

This reset link is for non-GRADnet Open University Students and will not work for GRADnet students. Regrettably nothing happens. Please use the procedure in the above FAQ to reset the password instead.

I have an account but lost my username. What do I do?

If you have forgotten your username (OUCU) then please contact the GRADnet administrator at your university. Before doing so please check historical emails and other sources that may include your OUCU.

I have tried all these but my account isn’t recognised.

It is possible your access has expired due to inactivity. In some instances it is possible that access has expired (depending on when the account was created and last accessed). If you are using your username and password and unable to log in or not seeing what you expect then you should email to investigate. This process will always take longer to investigate than a password reset so if there is any chance that you are using the wrong password then you should take the password reset option first.

Non-SEPnet accounts: some students have created accounts from the main OU website. If this is the case then you won’t have a username made up of your initials followed by some numbers. Depending on the information that you provide it can take a while to get to investigate these so it would be important to include this in any communication so that you can be instructed to register using the SEPnet VRE registration.

Having validated that your account works and that you can sign in, please ensure that you keep your account information with you so that it does not become necessary to reset the passwords because of infrequent use. Web-browsers often enable the automatic storage of passwords and account details and help make logging in much easier but you may find this gets lost in some circumstances.