The purpose of this study was to examine the pull and push factors which international students took into account in their choice of Uganda and the institution at which they chose to study. The study focused on their lived academic and social experiences. The push-pull theory of migration was used as the theoretical foundation of the study. This was a mixed method study which utilised a multiple case study design with the focus on Makerere University (MAK) and Kampala International University (KIU) which are public and private institutions respectively. The pragmatic paradigm was deemed appropriate for the the purposes of the study and was, therefore, selected. Purposive sampling was applied to select the two universities and international students at these universities as the research participants. Quantitative data was collected by means of an on-line survey instrument which was administered to 227 respondents in both institutions while qualitative data was collected by means of a structured interview guide administered to 28 respondents.
The study findings revealed a combination of pull factors that the international students had considered in their choice of Uganda. These included quality of education in the country, a desire to learn or improve their English, ease in terms of visa processing, political and geographical factors, family and parental influence, economic reasons and Ugandan hospitality. In addition, the push factors from their home countries were discovered to be academic, sponsorship conditionalities, family, personal and domestic education policy related. In respect to the choice of institution, the findings showed that MAK was a preferred institution due to its long history and academic reputation while KIU was chosen for its reputation but also in view of the large numbers of international students it enrols and its geographical location.
In respect to their lived academic experiences, the findings indicated that the international students had found the method of delivery of group work and presentation in plenary for discussions to be extremely enriching as well as cordial and supportive faculties which facilitated the learning process. In respect to their social experience, Ugandans were found to be friendly and supportive when approached and international students found it useful to spend time with them. However, the study also established that the international students had experienced discrimination off the campuses. In short, the study revealed that the international students had had positive academic and social experiences although the frequent strikes (MAK) had affected them severely and also that much still need to be accomplished at the institutional and national levels. The study suggested that the government and higher education institutions should invest more heavily in making Uganda an attractive education destination country by designing appropriate national and institutional, internationalisation policies and strategies and implement them effectively.