Analytic Quality Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2004-21, Analytic Quality Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 22 September, 2021 , © Lee Harvey 2004–2021.


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Unitary system

core definition

A unitary system is one that has higher education located in a single type of institution..

explanatory context

Unitary systems are compared to binary systems where higher education is delivered in academic/research oriented institutions (usually called universities) and more vocationally-oriented institutions referred to as technikons, polytechnics, Fachhochschulen, and hogescholen.


The unitary versus binary division, in practice, is only indicative. In the UK, for example, the changing of polytechnics to universities supposedly ended the binary system, yet higher education is still split between universities and non-universities (institutes of higher education and some further education colleges).

analytical review

Campbell and Rozsnyai, (2002, p. 133) define unitary system as:

Higher education in a country offered in one type of institution, consisting of universities or university-like establishments (cf., binary system).

associated issues


related areas

See also

binary system


Campbell, C. & Rozsnyai, C., 2002, Quality Assurance and the Development of Course Programmes. Papers on Higher Education Regional University Network on Governance and Management of Higher Education in South East Europe Bucharest, UNESCO.

copyright Lee Harvey 2004–2021

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