I studied Social Sciences (Development Economics concentration) at one of Europe's top ranked universities and achieved excellent grades, but had to interrupt my studies just before taking two final exams, entirely due to personal reasons - thus not completing my undergraduate degree.
While I was at uni, I obtained grants to run a new research project in my field with sponsorship by some well-known professors. The progress of my work was published in an international journal and also a few industry magazines. I was also heavily involved in other projects around the university. I mention these little details just to make it clear that I was not at uni just for the sake of getting a qualification, but because had a genuine intention of contributing to my field, to research and maybe become a professor.
While I was addressing my personal issues, I started working, first freelancing but later at a mid-sized company and have worked my way up to middle management. My job is somewhat related to what I studied and also very analytical, although it's obviously business-focused.
I am wondering what options I have... - if I wanted to return to a research based position; - especially, if returning to university might turn out to be too hard/long (might have to re-do the entire undergraduate studies while working) - and whether it might be easier (but also possible) to try applying straight into think-tanks and development focused positions.
One of my concerns is that despite my good CV in business, I don't have the same quantitative-analytical and research skills of someone who studied at postgraduate level. It's one of the subjects I enjoyed most and even enjoy at work, but how can I prove myself to future employers?
I think my question boils down to: how much do my achievements matter, and what else do I need to do to make up for no degree?
UPDATES / Answers to questions in comments: I dropped out of my own, for very personal reasons. In fact, I almost disappeared without notice and had to leave to another country. I am also a bit reluctant to discuss with my university about what those personal reasons were, but trust me they were very serious. So I would have mixed feelings about returning to the same university. I am sure I have disappointed many people there, and they would not understand why I left...
UPDATE 2 / Answers to rocinante's update :) There must have been a misunderstanding. I didn't mention nor imply anywhere that I considered faking my credentials to advance my career. I started at entry level with my current employer and progressed from within, i.e. there were no academic requirements when I started, but I proved them that I had the skills required for my current level. To be more specific, I am asking about whether there might be chances for alternative training to get into a more advanced research path. Adult learning, online courses, non-degree professional certificates. For example, I have heard of several people getting into MBA programs after 5-7 years of work experience, but no degree. Are there analogue routes into research? I hope this clarifies.
UPDATE 3 / Answers to Ben Webster and rocinante Thanks both of you. It's true I should consider my old university; I am just very afraid that it might not work and considering what alternatives I may have should my attempts fail. I am also not belittling the value of degrees, BUT simply wondering how else I could prove myself, improve my knowledge, use a professional body route rather than academic etc. if the old university option won't succeed. I know many doors will close, but I am determined and convinced that my potential, passion and skills far outweigh what's on paper.