Crisis makes bold policy actions possible. In responding to socioeconomic and technological ruptures, policymakers create new imaginaries or revitalise existing ones. With the Australian Government’s Job-Ready Graduates (JRG) reform during the COVID-19 pandemic as an empirical case, this paper shows how crisis instrumentalism and policy imaginaries intersect to effect swift policy changes. Drawing on a thematic analysis of key documents that constitute the JRG reform, we highlight three findings. First, the reformers used a new crisis context to repackage pre-existing policy agendas. Second, in justifying the timeliness of the reform, rather than constructing new imaginaries, the Government reactivated old neoliberal visions of society and the economy. Finally, the reform agendas are characterised by reductionist accounts of the value of university education, a nativist view of the future workforce, and the omissions of key issues: research training, social justice, and the urgency of decarbonising the economy. We close the paper by arguing that crisis makes swift reform possible to the extent that key actors can mobilise new or pre-existing policy imaginaries.