Texas is a complicated place. Once part of Mexico, later racially segregated and now an oil-fuelled American boom state, it is a human patchwork quilt of all colours and means. So when its public universities were forced by court order to stop giving preference in admissions to non-whites on the basis of their race, they needed some other way to reflect the state\'s diversity. What Texan policymakers came up with was legislation drily called House Bill 588 but more commonly known as the \"Top 10 Per Cent Rule\". It required public universities to take the top 10 per cent of students from every state secondary school - white, black, Hispanic, rich, poor, urban, rural or suburban - thereby guaranteeing a student body that reflected the population. More than 10 years later, the idea is spreading as a way of ensuring fairness even when the quality of secondary education varies widely. The University of California next year will begin a scheme to accept the top 9 per cent of secondary school graduates. The Florida system guarantees admission to the top 20 per cent. Momentum behind the idea is also picking up internationally, with universities in France and the Republic of Ireland considering it. For example, Patrick Prendergast, the provost-elect of Trinity College Dublin, has proposed that as a means of encouraging socio-economic diversity, Trinity should accept the top 10 per cent of students from all state schools in and around the city rather than relying on examination results that favour private fee-paying schools. Seven such schools sent 375 students to Trinity this year, while only 80 came from 53 state schools. Trinity has hitherto failed to meet its goals for admitting low-income, disabled and mature students, so the proposal could help it to meet some of the targets. But Professor Prendergast declined to discuss the plans until he takes office in August.