COLUMBIA - A bill to create a research university within the College of Charleston has advanced in the South Carolina Senate.

A higher education subcommittee on Wednesday unanimously approved the measure to establish the University of Charleston as a means of meeting the technical needs of a changing economy.

The bill which passed the House 95-8 last month would also bar the University of Charleston from duplicating programs already offered in Charleston. A previous version which sought to create the comprehensive research facility by merging the College of Charleston and the Medical University of South Carolina was opposed by MUSC's board.

The College of Charleston's incoming president and current state Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell said the University of Charleston offers a platform to enter into opportunities that the college cannot do currently, such as advanced studies in computer science and supply chain logistics.

McConnell said the research university would be able to collaborate with other universities and businesses. Its creation would also remove the need for a merger, he said.

"It is not my vision to replace the College of Charleston. It is in fact to protect the College of Charleston ... as a strong, excellent liberal arts institution," McConnell said.

Commission on Higher Education director Richard Sutton questioned the sponsors' intention of creating a comprehensive research university along the lines of Clemson or the University of South Carolina.

"If they are focused on a high profile, high intensity academic structure focused on very clear objectives that are targeted to their region's economic developmental needs, I think that this could become something incredibly creative and innovative," Sutton said. "But at the end of the day, we don't know what this legislation will create, how it will be governed and how much it will cost."