UHCL does not offer lower-level courses, and many of the student body attend area community colleges to complete their basic curriculum requirements. Each students is admitted to a specific degree program at the University of Houston–Clear Lake after he or she has obtained 54 semester hours of college credit with a minimum grade of C or if he or she has earned an associate's degree.
UHCL was authorized in 1971 by the 62nd Texas Legislature as the University of Houston at Clear Lake City and began holding classes on campus in the fall of 1974. In 1983, it became an autonomous university separate from the University of Houston and truncated its name to the University of Houston–Clear Lake. Today, UHCL has the third-largest enrollment in the University of Houston System with an enrollment of about 8,000 students. It is the largest upper-level university in the state of Texas.
The University of Houston–Clear Lake is located on a nature preserve adjacent to the master-planned community of Clear Lake City. The campus consists of four classroom buildings: the Bayou, Arbor, Delta, and Student Services buildings. Additionally, the campus includes a physical plant maintenance facility, the University Forest Apartments, and the headquarters building of the Environmental Institute of Houston. Unbeknownst to many, the majority of the UHCL campus lies within the corporate limits of Pasadena, while only the part of campus south of Horsepen Bayou lies within the city of Houston. The campus sits in a bottomland hardwood forest adjacent to the Johnson Space Center and the Armand Bayou Nature Center and is home to a wide range of wildlife including alligators, wild turkeys, bobcats, and whitetail deer.
The vast majority of classroom space is located in the Bayou Building, which is the largest building on campus. It also houses the campus book store, several computer labs, and all of the university's science laboratories. The Delta Building houses the Computer Science and Engineering program as well as many computing labs and classrooms. The Arbor Building was constructed in 1971 and was the first building on campus. It is home to UHCL's acclaimed studio art programs. The Student Services Building was completed in 2005 and houses business and education classrooms. A large part of the facility is dedicated to student service functions, including the Dean of Students' office, the registrar, cashier, and financial aid offices. The Fitness Zone workout facility on the second level of the SSB has cardio and weight training equipment for student use.
UHCL awards the undergraduate degrees Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Business Administration and Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). At the graduate level it awards the degrees Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Business Administration, Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), and Doctor of Education (EdD). The EdD program in Educational Leadership, initiated in January 2007, is the first doctoral degree program offered by the university.
UHCL is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Many of the university's Schools and academic programs have individual accreditation through other governing bodies such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the American Chemical Society (ACS), and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).