The structure and stability of Stewartson shear layers with different heights are investigated numerically via axisymmetric simulation and linear stability analysis, and a validation of the quasi-two-dimensional model is performed. The shear layers are generated in a rotating cylindrical tank with circular disks located at the lid and base imposing a differential rotation. The axisymmetric model captures both the thick and thin nested Stewartson layers, which are scaled by the Ekman number (
$\mathit{E}\,$
) as
$\mathit{E}\,^{1/4}$
and
$\mathit{E}\,^{1/3}$
respectively. In contrast, the quasi-two-dimensional model only captures the
$\mathit{E}\,^{1/4}$
layer as the axial velocity required to invoke the
$\mathit{E}\,^{1/3}$
layer is excluded. A direct comparison between the axisymmetric base flows and their linear stability in these two models is examined here for the first time. The base flows of the two models exhibit similar flow features at low Rossby numbers (
$\mathit{Ro}$
), with differences evident at larger
$\mathit{Ro}$
where depth-dependent features are revealed by the axisymmetric model. Despite this, the quasi-two-dimensional model demonstrates excellent agreement with the axisymmetric model in terms of the shear-layer thickness and predicted stability. A study of various aspect ratios reveals that a Reynolds number based on the theoretical Ekman layer thickness is able to describe the transition of a base flow that is reflectively symmetric about the mid-plane to a symmetry-broken state. Additionally, the shear-layer thicknesses scale closely to the expected
${\it\delta}_{vel}\propto A\mathit{E}\,^{1/4}$
and
${\it\delta}_{vort}\propto A\mathit{E}\,^{1/3}$
for shear layers that are not affected by the confinement (
$A\mathit{E}\,^{1/4}\lesssim 0.34$
in this system, the ratio of tank height to shear-layer radius). The linear stability analysis reveals that the ratio of Stewartson layer radius to thickness should be greater than
$45$
for the stability of the flow to be independent of aspect ratio. Thus, for sufficiently small
$A\mathit{E}\,^{1/4}$
and
$A\mathit{E}\,^{1/3}$
, the flow characteristics remain similar and the linear stability of the flow can be described universally when the azimuthal wavelength is scaled against
$A$
. The analysis also recovers an asymptotic scaling for the normalized azimuthal wavelength which suggests that
${\it\lambda}_{{\it\theta},c}^{\ast }\propto (|\mathit{Ro}|/\mathit{E}\,^{2})^{-1/5}$
for geometry-independent shear layers at marginal stability.