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At a first glance, the 2009 world university rankings of Times Higher Education display a familiar pattern. The league table is dominated by US and British institutions (32 and 18 in the top 100), and, more generally, by those from English-speaking countries. The top ten are headed by Harvard University and made up of six US and four British institutions.
Yet, something has changed. The US and Canada together, now present with 36 universities, still had 42 in the group of the 100 leading institutions in 2008. The UK has, by and large, kept its position, while Asian universities are fast catching up. The latter make up exactly a quarter of the first one hundred, with Australia and Japan accounting for more than half. Continental Europe is by and large keeping its share, with 18 institutions. However, some proud academic nations in Europe, such as Germany and France, are less present than expected (3 and 2 respectively) and outnumbered by institutions from small Switzerland (4). Southern Europe scores weak, with Spain and Italy not at all present in the top 100 (Italy has one in the top 200). Sadly but not unexpectedly, no Latin American universities, and none from Africa, figure among the first 100.