The definition of what constitutes an effective governing body in higher education is complex and contentious. It includes not just the corporate governance requirements covering most sectors, but also a number of issues specific to higher education. Over the past few years numerous measures to enhance HE governance have been adopted, including: clarifying roles and responsibilities through the CUC Guide and Code of Practice; a general reduction in governing body size; enhancements in governor support and development; widespread sharing of good practice; the adoption of governing body effectiveness reviews; and so on. It follows that any attempt to assess robustly the effectiveness of individual governing bodies in HEIs may be challenging, in that widely differing views of what constitutes effectiveness may be involved. The project reported in this paper attempted to address this problem by identifying a framework or 'conceptual map' of all the key factors that influence governing body effectiveness, and that individual boards can use as part of their own effectiveness reviews.